Dancing Hearts Blog

How Your Thoughts Can Sabotage Progress with Your Dog

How Your Thoughts Can Sabotage Progress with Your Dog

Are your thoughts getting in the way of you living a safe, calm, and happy life with your dog?

I’m sorry to say that this could very well be the case!

Ok, so if you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about thoughts generated by your primitive, reptilian brain … you know, the part of your brain that still remembers keeping you safe from cave lions and dinosaurs.
We fondly call that part of our brain “Lizard Brain”, or “Ms Lizzy”.

As far as ‘Ms Lizzy’ is concerned, anything strange, different or new is suspect, and triggers a Ms Lizzy reactivity spiral.

Whenever we try to make real change happen in our life, (even if it’s positive change), our primitive brain often steps in and makes us question everything and runs interference so that we don’t make that change we know will transform our relationship with our dog, and our life.

Without realizing it, your thoughts around being safe, calm, and happy could be the very thing that stifles your progress.

​​Let me explain… whenever we try to make real change happen in our life (even if it’s a positive change), our primitive brain often steps in and screams all sorts of things inside our head.

​​I’m talking negative thoughts, self-doubt, and resistance to embracing a partnership lifestyle.

I’ve experienced this myself on more than one occasion, and I see it time and time again inside the Brilliant Partners Academy. It’s human nature to be wary or even resistant to change, but that doesn’t mean you should let it get in the way of you and your dog’s progress towards a loving partnership!

The best way to stop our thoughts from sabotaging your progress is by understanding how we operate as humans. Understanding how the mind works is key for learning how to become a brilliant partner for your dog(s) and an intentional creator of the kind of life you want to live with them.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into our thoughts, shall we?


“You are the observer of your thoughts…and you have the ability to filter your thoughts.”


YOU are in control of your thoughts

No offense to us humans, but we generally have no idea just how powerful our brains really are. What’s more, we don’t know how to leverage our brain in a way that works for us.

It’s easy to get so lost in our thoughts that we forget that we are so much more than what we think. We are not our thoughts or our feelings. However, our thoughts and feelings lead to the decisions and actions that create our life experience.

If you think about it, the thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions you make today creates your tomorrow. Since you are the thinker of your thoughts, you have the power to use thoughts that lead to feelings that inspire action that is aligned with the future you want to be enjoying. It’s those actions that can help you create the kind of life you want to live with your dogs.


How thoughts sabotage progress towards a safe, calm, and happy life

When we first discover the power of the safe, calm, and happy principle, it’s exciting! I mean, who doesn’t want their dogs to feel safe, calm, and happy? The idea paints a brighter future for our lives with our dogs, and suddenly, the impossible seems possible. That is until the primitive brain creeps in and basically tries to destroy our progress.

So, what does this look like? How do you know when your thoughts are trying to sabotage your progress?

Here’s an example of what that might look like…

Let’s say that we’re working on ways to keep your dog safe, calm, and happy.

I might ask you to write a list of the things (activities, events, environments, etc.) that you’re pretty certain make you and your dog feel safe, calm, and happy. It’s a simple task, right? You can probably get it done quite quickly too. After all, you know your dog better than anyone else, and you know what makes them feel comfortable.

Then, I might ask you to create a list of activities, events, and environments that do NOT make you or your dog feel safe, calm, or happy, and have the opposite effect. For example, this could include walking your reactive dog in a busy park with lots of triggers … or your dog jumping up excitedly on guests … or perhaps chasing things that move, or  maybe stealing food from the kitchen counter…

Now that you’ve completed both tasks, I’ll likely ask you to plan to do more of the things that make you and your dog feel safe, calm, and happy, and less of the things that don’t. You’re going to break that cycle and stop engaging in the activities, events, and environments that cause stress, and cortisol to be released. Which also is the MAIN factor in leaking trust from our relationship with our dog, by the way.

Enter the primitive brain. You may start to feel some resistance as your primitive brain kicks in and stirs things up BIG time.


How the primitive brain works

What you need to know about your primitive brain is that it does not like change. Your primitive brain is programmed to keep you safe, which means avoiding anything new because it is unpredictable.

​​So, whenever you try something new, your Ms Lizzy says… “that sounds like a bad idea. What if it doesn’t work? What if it makes things worse? How about we don’t try that new thing, and we stick with what we know?”

If you have a reactive dog and you know you need to walk them somewhere quiet, preferably away from other dogs, your primitive brain might kick in again. It’ll say things like, “It’s impossible to go for a walk and avoid other dogs…” That’s your primitive brain taking over and sabotaging you from making the necessary changes to help you and your dog progress, overcome issues, and grow closer as partners.

Deep down, you know that the safe, calm, and happy protocol works because you’ve seen how many lives have changed because of it. However, your primitive brain doesn’t back down, and doubt settles in, and you struggle to make any real progress with your dog. It’s a constant cycle that you must break through.

Your primitive brain wants to keep you stuck in the same old routine. Anything that requires change is perceived as bad, even though you know it’s not. All those thoughts that hold you back are coming from the old reptilian brain and not the prefrontal cortex, which processes thoughts rationally.


“Your primitive brain does not design your life - it keeps your life exactly the same.”


How to override your primitive brain

Okay, so let’s try to break free from the restrictions your primitive brain has set. I have an easy assignment for you to try, and all you need is a pen and paper. I want you to brainstorm ways to feel safe, calm, and happy. This is not a job for the primitive brain. It’s a special job for the prefrontal cortex, so let that part of your brain take control of this assignment.

Let’s say that your dog is nervous or reactive around other dogs. So, you find a place to walk that is quiet, and there’s rarely another dog in sight. However, one day you’re walking with your dog, and suddenly, a stranger’s dog runs right up to you and your dog. Then, the inner dialogue takes off.

One part of your brain is generating the thought, “See, I told you we shouldn’t have come here. I knew it was a bad idea and now look, all hell is going to break loose.” That thought generates feelings of stress, anxiety, worry in you … and of course, your dog feels that from you, which leads to your dog feeling even more upset about that dog than before.

Meanwhile, the executive thinking part of your brain knows that this event isn’t the end of the world, reminds you how to respond in the moment and how to be a role model for your dog in a time of stress. That is what grows trust between you and your dog, and generates calm.

One of the decisions you have to make is this – which brain are you going to employ? The one that wants everything to stay the same, even if it’s bad. Or, the one that is designed to make changes aligned with your heart’s desires.

If your goal is to develop a brilliant partnership with your dog, ask yourself how a brilliant partner approaches this challenge? What can you learn from this incident?


 “You have the power to assign a particular executive task to your executive brain, and then follow through on the ideas that come out of that.”


Regain control of your thoughts and decisions

So, here’s another assignment for you. Think and come up with a few ideas for alternative activities you can do to keep you both safe, calm, and happy. Perhaps you’ll think about new places to walk to avoid any triggers, or you’ll brainstorm some fun games to play with your dog at home.

Before you let your primitive brain take over, remember that you have the power to assign tasks to your executive brain. Then, stay strong as you follow through on those ideas because that is what brilliant partners do! Your dog is relying on you to make decisions that will help you both live a safe, calm, and happy life together in partnership with each other. Only then will things start to really change for you!

When you find your ‘lizard brain’ getting vocal and taking over your thoughts, simply notice that happening…and then choose to reframe that thought that’s keeping you stuck in the past. Rinse and repeat until you have a new thought pattern and a new habit that your lizard brain can recognize as safe.

That’s what brilliant partners do! xo


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 143, which you can listen to here.

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