Dancing Hearts Blog

How to Turn Struggles with Your Dog into Triumphs

How to Turn Struggles with Your Dog into Triumphs


If you’re struggling with your dog, you’re not alone. We all have good days and bad days with our dogs.

Experiencing life with a dog comes with its ups and downs. There is a lot of joy, fun, and adventure that comes with sharing your life with a dog. On the other hand, there can be struggles and challenges too. In those moments, it can feel like your dog has turned into a problem child, and you’re left feeling exhausted and frustrated.

Sometimes, our dog’s behavior and how we behave due to our dog’s behavior can make us feel embarrassed. If you can relate to that feeling, you’re in the right place. We’ve all experienced this as dog moms!

I can honestly say that all of the experiences (the good and bad) I’ve had with my dogs have made me a better person. I want to talk about this in more detail and share how your dog can help you grow as a human being. Not only that, but how you can work on turning struggles into triumphs so that you can enjoy every single moment of life with your dog.


Acquiring profound knowledge and understanding about your dog

At the heart of the Dancing Hearts method, which I teach inside my Brilliant Partners Academy (see link at the bottom of this post for more info), I talk about the cognition concept. This refers to the process of “acquiring profound understanding and knowledge about our dogs, about ourselves, and how we interact and respond to one another.”

If you’re on a mission to build a trusting partnership lifestyle with your dog, gaining profound understanding about your dog is so important. Even when your dog is testing your nerves, there are moments of opportunity there. Although you might not realize it at the time, experiencing struggles with your dog can bring you together.


“He was a dog that I had dreamed of before he was even born”


Storytime – How Luc and I became brilliant partners

I experienced this with my border collie Luc, who is approaching 14 years of age soon. Back when I first started training him to herd sheep, he proved to be quite the challenge. He was talented, sure, but he struggled to choose between what his instincts told him to do and what I was telling him to do. As a young dog, it was a difficult position for him to be in, and he struggled with it a lot – we both did!

In his mind, Luc had two options. He could either do what he felt was right with the sheep or do what I asked him. For sheepdog herding to work, our dogs must use their instinct while also staying attuned to us at the same time. This meant that we needed to work on our partnership and teamwork skills in order to listen to me when he needed to, while also being careful not to disregard his instincts.

I knew I needed to work on communicating with Luc better. We already had a great relationship by then, and his instinct was also very strong. Looking back, we shared some comical moments together out in the field that I probably wouldn’t have laughed at back then! Nonetheless, we got to work on building a stronger partnership.

We worked on the partnership principles for a while. It took time for us to learn how to be partners in the context of sheep herding. Sometimes, everything went really well, and we were so connected. However, at other times, his attention drifted and he ignored me completely.

After some time, our trust in each other grew stronger, and the partnership kept getting better. We reached a point where we made it to the final round of the USBCHA National Sheepdog Championship in 2013. I was so proud of how far we had come. I still am!

One thing I know for sure: We became brilliant partners because of the struggles we faced and overcame together. I have a few tips to share that we learned along the way…


“Both partners get to shine as their brilliant selves, while they shine together in partnership”


Partnership is really all about ever-increasing levels of good communication.

Getting deeper into understanding. Deeper into what I call the ‘dialog loop’…an active exchange of thoughts, feelings, words, expressions, actions between me and my dog that informs me on how to best proceed with what we are doing together.

This is the “Partnership” that I tell you about. An interactive, collaborative relationship with our dogs that transforms struggles into possibilities.

Here are 5 tips for you to implement in your lifestyle with your dog:

  1. Start with an intention to actively communicate with your dog. To dialog. To truly listen with all of your senses, all of your being, to what your dog is telling you.
  2. Strive for clarity as you interact with your dog. Get really clear about what you want, and about how your dog needs you to teach it.
  3. Be the leader of the dance of your life. The dance requires you and your dog to be competent at being attentive and responsive to one another.
  4. Foster a deeper, heart-to-heart holistic connection with your dog. This means that you become as balanced mentally, emotionally and physically as your dog.
  5. Develop a foundation of collaboration with your dog that becomes your formula for easily transforming any struggle that crops up into brilliant possibility for success.

I hope you enjoyed the story I shared about my dog Luc, and I hope you can try these five tips yourself in hopes that they will help you build a better partnership with your dog.

Here’s a photo you might enjoy of Luc, working sheep at a herding trial.

Kathy's border collie "Luc" working sheep in a field, green grass


If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrollment!

You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 136, which you can listen to here.

One Response

  1. Dear Kathy,

    I love this story! It is exactly what I am facing stairs Vilja at the moment. Although, I can see she is very talented being a lead dog in my dogsled team, sometimes her focus is with her instincts and not on the job. And I know it will get better once our partnership is growing. This is one of the reasons why I joined the BPA..

    So thank you!

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