The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
You’ve heard the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan?
Helen was struck by a fever as a toddler that left her in a dark, silent place … “blind, deaf and dumb”, according to Helen in her story.
Her loving parents did all they could to love her, teach her and provide what they hoped would be a happy life.
Helen was indeed happy for a few years…playing, growing, loving…seeming to be well adjusted for her age.
Until the day her inability to communicate began to consume her … she desperately wanted to be understood and to understand her family.
Her frustration led to more and more frequent fits of frenzy, hyperactive, unruly behavior … or downright violent tantrums where nothing around her was safe from her damaging outbursts.
Should we put her in a care home for the unable? Her family considered. No, they decided, let’s find a way to help her.
Then one day, Anne arrived. It was a day that would prove to be transformational for Helen.
Slowly and persistently, Anne began to teach Helen how to communicate, starting with spelling out word symbols in Helen’s hand.
Helen could easily play this finger-hand game and mimic the finger signs, making the word signs back to Anne’s hand…but she did not understand their meaning…she did not make the connection between the finger-hand game and the objects they were naming.
She had no understanding and no ability to think or process thought. She didn’t know she could. Until one memorable day when everything changed.
Helen Keller: The Story of My Life
Helen Keller tells the story of her epiphany in the autobiography The Story of My Life
“MEANWHILE the desire to express myself grew. The few signs I used became less and less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself. I struggled–not that struggling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was strong within me; I generally broke down in tears and physical exhaustion.
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”
A few weeks later she writes …
“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, “Think”.
In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.
For a long time I was still–I was not thinking of the beads in my lap, but trying to find a meaning for “love” in the light of this new idea. The sun had been under a cloud all day, and there had been brief showers; but suddenly the sun broke forth in all its southern splendour.
Again, I asked my teacher, “Is this not love?”
“Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained: “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.”
The beautiful truth burst upon my mind–I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.”
Later, she writes:
“Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every teacher can make him learn. He will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is his, whether he is busy or at rest; he must feel the flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappointment before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful to him and resolves to dance his way bravely through a dull routine of textbooks.
My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. How much of my delight in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is due to her influence, I can never tell. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her–there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.”
The love, the trust, and the relentless dedication of Helen’s teacher to partner with her student changed everything for this young girl who would, herself, grow up to be one of the world’s greatest teachers of all. You can read her full story here.
I trust that you can see the connection between Helen’s story and how our dogs are begging to be heard and truly understood … and our role in being the leaders and teachers … the PARTNERS … they so desperately need us to be.
Now, let me switch stories.
There was a woman with a young, smart-as-a-whip border collie … as energetic as she was clever.
This pup easily learned all the usual stuff like sit/down/stay/shake … she knew at least a couple dozen cued tricks … and she could open doors and gate latches and she was so athletic she could leap 5 feet up from a stand still.
This youngster was well trained, yet she had so little impulse control that walking her caused the woman’s friends to exclaim: “it looks like you’re walking a helicopter on a string!!” She was happy and eager to meet and greet, so she basically leapt in the air the entire time. There was no holding her down.
The pup would get so frustrated at being contained, restrained, or restricted that she would just quiver and scream because her needs were not being understood.
When it came time for her herding training, a whole new level of frustration developed for this woman and her pup.
This experienced herding trainer could not teach this talented and smart pup how to stop at balance…the most basic of skills.
The woman tried harder, firmer, louder to get the stop.
The dog tried harder, firmer, louder to get what she wanted.
Expert advice offered little help. “Your pup is not listening, out of control, impossible to train”.
Punish her, correct her, hit her … give up on her … was the advice.
The woman refused, determined to find a way to help her dog.
They were both desperate to communicate. Neither was understood.
You may not know that I’m a trained healer, intuitive and animal communicator, able to tap into the most discreet, subtle expressions and unspoken communication.
Ultimately, I was able to use my intuitive skills and discover exactly what this pup was trying to communicate… and why she just refused to do such a simple thing.
In a weird twist of reality … it turns out the dog wanted the exact same thing as the woman, unbeknownst to either of them.
This clever and highly sensitive border collie had so precise a sense of balance, that she could not tolerate one sheep’s nose being off of dead center balance by one fraction of an inch.
She would just explode in frustrated frenzy, racing around instead of stopping when asked…so desperately reacting to not being understood.
Phoenix, the dog in this story, reminds me of Helen Keller in that old movie I saw as a kid …racing around the dinner table, throwing plates, food and glasses to the floor…so frustrated were her attempts to be heard.
Yes, as you may have guessed, this is my Phoenix, and the story of our rough start to herding.
It’s a similar story to the one I see repeated over and over with my students and clients … and with those who I wish were my students and clients.
I hear their dogs. I see the frustration on both sides. I know how they feel, and I know how to help.
I learned the hard way, to be sure.
If I knew then what I know now…I would NOT have kept rehearsing unwanted behavior over and over until it became our way of working together.
No…I would have stepped into my role as Leading Partner in our D.A.N.C.E.
What is this D.A.N.C.E., you ask?
I thought you’d never ask!
It’s a special way of connecting with dogs … a way of communicating and forming a partnership that decreases the overall need for training … while accelerating the training process.
The secrets of our connection with dogs, horses and other animals are not new…this wisdom has been passed down by the ancients who understood the profound connection between all living things.
What is new, is my SYSTEM that teaches dog enthusiasts exactly HOW to have that connection, to communicate in a way that allows dogs to feel understood and that allows people to easily communicate in a language both dog and human truly and naturally understand.
Today, science proves that we, our dogs, animals, plants and the earth are simply different combinations of the same elements…that we all share a DNA-deep connection.
Through Cognition … (the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding) … we can learn just HOW to tap into the power of that DNA-deep connection that we share with our dogs.
A cognitive dog trainer is willing to focus on this connection and then apply what they have learned to create the pure joy that is partnership between a dog and handler.
Dogs are ready, willing and able to be our devoted and collaborative partners. The joy they get when true partnership is experienced, I believe, is equal to ours.
When you learn and use the 5 principles contained in the DANCE of partnership…anything to which you dedicate yourself becomes possible…any dream you have will begin to unfold, and any training or handling problem can be easily solved.
Just like Helen Keller. And just like my Phoenix.
The D.A.N.C.E. Method:
Dance of connection and consensual partnership…mindful, joyful and delightful!
Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership you and your dog will love.
Notice: Attentive Responsiveness between you and your dog.
Competence at partnership and all the skills you are training for.
Equanimity. Calm, centered grace leads to a Joyful Dance between you and your dog.
“To be clear and confident of your own dreams while remaining responsive to the needs and gifts of others, you must check your ego at the gate.” ~Linda Kohanov
Partnership and Leadership itself is always a work in progress…it’s a true improvisation…an acknowledgement that there is no one, right, true way.
There’s this natural process in a well functioning community (of two or many) where leadership happens as a result of circumstance and everyone agrees it’s in the best interest of all.
This process allows for leadership roles to be traded, according to who is the calmest, clearest and most creative in a given situation.
This trading leadership roles is observed in mammals that live in social groups such as horses, wolves, and sheep.
My 40+ years working with and learning from horses (and horse partnership experts), has strongly influenced and helped to shape my body of work.
Horses ARE naturally hyper sensitive, like so many of our dogs. And we have spent thousands of years working with and partnering with horses. There is a lot to learn about human-animal relationships from the horse world.
Linda Kohanov: The Way of the Horse
In her book “Way of the Horse”, Linda Kohanov (a renowned expert in leadership) writes:
“In these equine communities, what an individual knows about, what he cares about, or what he’s calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent, drive, or experience the others value or, at times, defer to.
Humans seeking an absolute definition of leadership and a concrete job description to go with it, don’t like this concept much, but it’s really not that hard to fathom. And the benefits of putting it into action far outweigh surface ambiguities.
If you propose to create an authentic community where true feelings, talents, dreams and motivations are acknowledged, you have to head in this general direction. No leader knows everything. To convince your followers otherwise is dishonest, requiring increasing levels of posturing, deception, and finally, intimidation.
Basically, you have to maintain good boundaries without feeling the need to order everyone else around. Consensual leadership draws on the wisdom and sentience of the entire herd.”
We’re all familiar with terms like ‘pecking order’ or ‘pack dynamics/alpha/dominant leader’ … and social organization based on dominance hierarchies is a common discussion when we talk about Leadership.
The need to show our ‘dominance’ over our dogs has been accepted as ‘truth’ and can be seen in our everyday language surrounding dog training.
People still speak of dog training in terms that imply a power struggle: we “housebreak” them … we make a dog “obedient”… dogs try to “dominate” us … they need to “obey” our “commands”… we “correct” them if they are wrong.
That’s old, proven to be wrong, ineffective information.
The reality is that what really happens in a family group is …
What an individual knows about, cares about or is calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent or experience that other members value or defer to.
Translated as “sensing together” consensual leadership draws on the wisdom of everyone involved. When we are uncertain, or triggered by what is happening – we look to the individual who is most calm and centered in that situation.
In plain terms, leadership is awarded to the most helpful leader in each circumstance.
Sometimes our dog leads, like when following a track, retrieving a ball or gathering a field of sheep …
… and other times we are leading, like when we are providing dinner, or teaching key skills, or negotiating a walk thru a crowd.
Dogs will naturally follow our lead (defer to us) when we are calm, congruent, clear and confident. Why wouldn’t they, right?
That’s just the kind of leadership we practice in our Brilliant Partners Academy.
Suzanne Clothier: Bones Would Rain from the Sky
In her best selling book Bones Would Rain From The Sky, author Suzanne Clothier, writes:
“Each relationship between an animal and a human is a bridge uniquely shaped to carry only those two, and so must be crafted by them. Though the work of a lifetime, the building and repairs are done slowly, in the heart’s time, one beat after another. And it is thirsty work, as the work of the heart always is, for the heart thirsts after the things that are invisible to the eye, things you cannot grasp with your hand.”
The promise of a dog who eagerly responds to our lightest cue … who is attentive and responsive, and willing to follow our lead … is what awaits when we take full responsibility for these three key elements:
- Training Process
Our ability to design, implement and assess/adjust a plan for training grows as we gain knowledge and experience.
It starts with thinking about our dog and our dreams…and creating a plan of training that will lead us and our dogs toward that dream.
Then it’s time to take responsible action… taking small, successful steps that keep us moving in the direction of our dreams. A plan of training based on slow but steady progress achieves rapid results while building confidence and trust.
If you are training from the heart, with the best interest of your dog at the center, you will never go wrong…even if your plan is not well-designed or well-implemented.
You’ll simply learn, and course correct.
It starts with taking responsibility for our role…for our part of the partnership.
Patricia McConnell, Ph.D
In her best selling book The Other End of the Leash, author, speaker and Certified Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, writes:
“Leader is another loaded term in dog training. The concept of dominance has been so misused and misunderstood that even the word leadership has fallen out of favor in some circles. That’s a shame, because most social animals profit from the wisdom of a wise leader.
Teaching dogs to be patient and polite while acting like a loving, benevolent leader has helped hundreds of my clients who were having trouble with their dogs.
Perhaps the dogs learn that they can get what they want by being patient and polite rather than rude and pushy and learn to deal with frustration without becoming aggressive or out of control.
These suggestions are not substitutes for a complete dog training manual or good video course, or better yet, a good class where you have a coach to help you out.
The first thing that every dog trainer learns is that most of the problems people have with their dogs, and dogs have with their people, are due to misunderstanding that could have been prevented.
Indeed, the goal of this book has been to promote an increased level of understanding of human and dog behavior, in the hope that it improves the relationships between people and their dogs.
Perhaps there’s value in a relationship that strives to share what it can and that accepts deeply and peacefully, it’s limitations.”
In the Brilliant Partners Academy, our focus is on learning the art of heart-centered, loving leadership.
Dogs, as socially intelligent animals, truly thrive when we provide just the right kind of balanced leadership. When we have that as our intention, and we learn to become congruent, even the most unruly dogs can learn to calm and to behave mindfully and responsibly.
“The best-laid plans can distract you from opportunities. Sometimes you must wait, patiently, for an opening – then act without hesitation.”
We hear a lot about the importance of timing when we are training our dogs – and it’s true – when we are sensitive to timing, we make great progress.
Good timing is an art, and it’s one that we can cultivate in ourselves with sincere intention.
It starts with being present, and being so focused that we can see opportunities as they occur. We only have the briefest of moments to act before it’s gone and if we are distracted in any way … gone it will be!
When we step into this state of ‘natural time’, we are able to let go of our agendas and cultivate attentive responsiveness between us and our dog…and attentive responsiveness is the ‘mother’ of all things good when it comes to training our dogs!
Artful timing requires self control, discernment, grace and abandon. Not coincidentally, those are the same qualities that our dogs need to navigate life with humans … and we can learn so much from them.
Luckily, our dogs don’t hold grudges when we mis-time our cues and loose points in a trial as a result.
Dogs live in natural time, always open to the next meaningful opportunity for harmony and communication … never holding on to ‘what could have been’.
“The Dance” enables you and your dog to become Competent at being attentive and responsive to one another.
There’s an interesting effect that happens …
when we begin to deeply connect with our dog with an intention of true listening and understanding, we are able to become engaged and fully present. And the more present we become, the better we can connect with and understand our dogs.
Brian Hare: The Genius of Dogs
In The Genius of Dogs, written by Brian Hare, associate professor of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and Vanessa Woods, research scientist at the Center and award-winning author of Bonobo Handshake, is written:
“A cognitive approach works so well with dogs, not because they have no mind, but precisely because they do. The genius of dogs is their ability to understand human communication and their motivation to cooperate with us.
Dogs also have biases and limitations to their understanding of how the world works. A cognitive approach allows us to train around those biases and limitations instead of fighting a losing battle with them.
A dog will always learn from a human faster than a wolf, because dogs have evolved skills to read our communicative signals. While working dogs might be more skilled at using human gestures … all dogs are skilled at using human gestures.
…dogs are more skilled at using our gestures if we pay attention to them while giving the gesture.
When an experimenter shows where food has been hidden but then points at another location, dogs do not search for the food they saw, but instead go to where the human pointed.”
The bottom line is that dogs mirror us…
… and it’s in their DNA to look to us for guidance and leadership.
When we are fully present, training is accelerated, and the amount of time needed is greatly diminished.
“Training is, after all, nothing more than the establishment of a system of communication between a dog and handler…and becoming competent at it.”
Being a beginner is hard. Fortunately, it’s temporary!
Novice or beginner handlers and trainers are faced with the problem of having to first think of each cue, then apply it.
Using the voice, body, expression, and intention together and in harmony can be a monumental task for the beginner.
But with intentional practice, communication becomes efficient, our confidence grows our self-image expands and our partnership with our dog builds into a foundation of trust and understanding.
Ultimately, with confidence born of competence, the result is graceful and worthy of awe.
Pat Miller: The Power of Positive Dog Training
Pat Miller, author of The Power of Positive Dog Training, writes:
“Great dogs don’t happen by accident. When you see an owner playing in the park with a dog who is playful, exuberant, and at the same time attentive, responsive, and obedient, you can be sure the owner has spent lots of quality time with her dog.
When you train your dog, you establish a powerful bond that helps to cement the relationship. This bond is the critical difference between the unfortunate dog who ends up at the shelter because the owner is moving and can’t keep him and the dog whose owner would live in his car or on the street before considering giving up his faithful, four-legged friend.
Every dog has the power to be great. Will yours? It’s up to you. Both you and your dog bring the power to success in the training adventure. You bring the power to teach; your dog brings the power and eagerness to learn what you teach.
Learning how to communicate with your dog can be a joyful and awe-inspiring experience of mutual empowerment. As you train your dog, you create a relationship based on trust and understanding.
You will also be thrilled and amazed by your dog’s unlimited learning potential and positive attitude. Open your eyes, your mind, and your heart … and get ready to discover your dog.”
Positive vs Permissive…
So many people get very confused by the difference between positive and permissive. There are few role models for how to be a positive leader, getting what you want without being punitive.
It means, in my world, having a working partnership where the human is the leader of the dance. My programs are all about dogs loving guidance, leadership, clarity and clear communication.
Being a clear and loving leader often means swiftly interrupting undesired behavior, and replacing that with Teaching what to do instead.
It often means being firm and confident in your ask, deliberate and congruent … insistent without being adversarial … delivering a ‘no option’ directive.
It sometimes means using a tone of voice and body language that clearly communicates to the dogs that their current action or the choice they are considering is NOT acceptable.
Because I am calm and clear, my dogs will defer to my leadership in those situations.
It means staying fully present so we can be responsible leaders for our dogs.
I call that being ATTENTIVE AND RESPONSIVE. Which is exactly how we want our dogs to be too.
Practicing the skills of communication between you and your dog prepare you for practicing the skills of any specialty sport or activity like agility, herding, rally.
Just like a child learning the ABC’s, then words, then little sentences, and then books…
Learning how to communicate with your 3P’s: Posture, Position, Presence and by practicing the Dance … establishes the language you need to support your dog’s education in all things.
Sometimes, communication transcends the physical and becomes effortless. This happens when the handler is no longer centered on herself, but is a true partner of her dog. They are one. The handler thinks of the desired work and no more. Thoughts become the cues without conscious direction.
Every once in a while, everything comes together and we get into The Zone…a place where time disappears and we are in a heightened state of awareness and in sync.
Together dog and handler enter “the zone” in which the two blend so naturally that the experience seems effortless, without conscious interference. It’s a beautiful thing!
Evenness of mind, especially under stress, is one of those Leadership qualities that will take us far with our dogs.
Patience with ourselves and our dog is an essential element that will keep us centered when others (like our dog) become over-aroused or reactive.
A patient leader sets reasonable boundaries without ordering others around…and whose clarity, composure and poise are downright contagious!
When we lead by example, not by force or dominance, we become the one that our dogs want to follow.
As a Certified Tellington TTouch practitioner, my work includes the power of the TTouch Method.
In her book, Getting in TTouch with Your Dog, highly acclaimed animal expert and horse woman, Linda Tellington-Jones shares:
“Dogs enrich their owners’ lives in so many ways. We can reciprocate by being mindful of the Canine Golden Rule: Treat your dog as you would like to be treated … with kindness and understanding.”
Proven to have the SAME positive effect on the human doing the work, as well as the dog receiving the work, TTouch is a simple, effective way to influence equanimity and help bring mental, emotional and physical balance.
”The TTouches build confidence, instill obedience and develop an animal’s ability and willingness to learn. It takes animals beyond instinct, teaching them to think and learn instead of react.”
Learning how to connect and communicate with our dogs in this profound way … helps us to achieve and to maintain a balance, even state of mind that is so important for our dogs. And it helps our dogs to reach a place of alert, yet calm state of mind, ideal for learning.
Learning the Art of Partnership
“A moment of choice is a moment of truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”-Stephen Covey
I call these “choice points” … they come up in daily life, and they come up every time we work or train our dogs.
Will I choose the high road when my dog doesn’t listen…and pause to teach?
Or, will I choose the other, perhaps easier, and more heavily traveled road…and correct my dog for blowing me off?
Yes, Learning the art of partnership with our dogs requires a change of mind and a change of heart.
And it requires taking ACTION.
Here’s where all comes together…partnership in action draws upon responsiveness, assertiveness, discernment, mental and emotional agility, subtle-body awareness, intuition, consensual leadership…
The Dance of Partnership is stunning to watch … and puts us into a place of ecstasy … intense joy.
And it’s addictive…which leads to serious challenges.
Can we stay present and focused …even when we are not ‘in the zone’. ..to be able to Dance with frustration, conflict, performance anxiety, miscommunication, poor timing.
Yes…that is indeed a challenge! It’s THE challenge, really.
Dancing becomes a metaphor for:
- Leading without dominating
- Following without loosing boundaries
- Trading leads in true partnership
Speaking of Rupert Sheldrake …
In her book, Linda Tellington-Jones writes:
“World-renowned scientist Rupert Sheldrake, in his fascinating book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, has finally proved that dogs can read our minds and pick up our mental pictures even when far away.
It confirms to me that it was the clarity of my expectations that made my dogs so cooperative over the years, and is the difference between success and failure in so many cases of inappropriate behavior.”
Ahhh…Clarity. It’s such a crucial element of a solid foundation and a brilliant partnership with our dogs … that I have a full module in the Foundation Formula, just about Clarity.
Yes, it is empowering to know that if we change our own emotional responses, our own behavior, our own actions …. that our dogs will change too.
And we can’t do it alone. Sometimes, no matter how clear our vision is … we can go off course.
We need the eyes of someone who understands us, our dogs, our journey, our dreams and our goals to keep us on course. We all need someone we trust that can help us to see when and how to course correct, before we stray too far away from our vision.
How can you learn to D.A.N.C.E. with your dog?
As a child, I could see the light shining in the eyes of animals. I was attracted to their openness and acceptance and I followed their light willingly. The animals offered a safe container for that shy, introverted, thoughtful child that offered kindness to animals and people alike.
You might say that my natural gifts of intuition, empathy and compassion have always been strong.
I’ve always known when someone’s inner light has dulled with pain. It was that knowing that drove me to learn all I could and study the work of those masterful at helping another’s light to shine.
It was that knowing that fueled my strong passion to bring people and animals together into a place of harmonic collaboration … to find joy in one another, and in the learning process.
I never wanted to be the one who caused the dulling of the light in my horses, dogs, people. Alas, I am not always successful, though I always try.
Even though I was well studied and practiced in them, learning theories and training principles became flat, dry, unsatisfying substitutes for the deep, rich, multi-sensory experience of connecting heart-to-heart, in a truly holistic way.
There is nothing like it!!
My perception tells me that the dogs, horses, all others really, experience something quite similar.
Can I say that I LOVE my work?
To be able to share the wisdom the animals have brought to my life and to be able to offer the opportunity to others to be ‘keepers of the light’ as we train, play, work with our dogs is truly a blessing!
Over a thousand dog moms, from more than 27 countries around the world are living a life of partnership with their dogs. My Brilliant Partners Academy is where I share it all…teaching all the pieces of the Foundation Formula and the Dancing Hearts Partnership Lifestyle Method.
The results and transformations are astounding, truly.
Let me know if you put these partnership principles to work for you and your dog … it’s well worth a try!
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!