Part of living in a true partnership is to work towards some kind of common purpose. Yet, it’s something that a lot of us don’t think about when it comes to our dogs.
Welcome back to part four of my five-part series, ‘The Summer Series on The Power of Partnership.’ Over the course of this series, I’ve been sharing some simple and highly effective partnership principles to help you forge the partnership you’ve always wanted with your dog.
We’re returning to Mary and Max’s story. Mary’s a dog mom and avatar client who we’ve been following along her journey as she puts these principles into action.
If you haven’t already caught up with the previous episodes, I suggest you check out the first three parts before continuing. Listen to the podcast episode for part one, two, and three, or read the blog post for part one, two, and three to catch up.
All caught up? Let’s move on to part four!
What’s a common purpose?
The fourth principle of a successful partnership is understanding and working towards a common purpose. This is when you and your dog are on the same team, and you can both achieve the results you want.
“You become partners that are working together toward a common goal, a common outcome.”
It’s a simple idea really. A partnership works best when both sides want the same thing.
It’s such a small shift in your relationship with your dog, but it can make all the difference and strengthen your partnership.
Establishing a common purpose for each life experience and activity can help you achieve the desired outcome far easier. By this, I mean looking at meals, walking, agility courses, obedience competitions, bathing, and grooming – pretty much everything you experience with your dog.
Examples of common purposes include:
- You want your dog to eat their meal as much as they do
- You want your dog to go out to potty the same as they do
- You want your dog to play in the yard and have as much fun as possible, just like they do
When we approach these activities from the perspective of wanting the same thing, you and your dog become teammates.
When we become teammates, the whole thing just becomes so much smoother, more fun, and certainly a lot easier.
“When we approach that cooperation from this perspective of, we both want the same thing, auto-magically, you and your dog become teammates.”
How Mary and Max found a common purpose
Remember the beginning of Mary’s story from part one? All she wanted to do was take Max for a walk, but she was having trouble connecting with him.
Interestingly, there are some layers to their story. Mary and Max have been doing competition obedience for some time and have even earned a few titles.
What was frustrating for Mary was that Max was so good when they practiced their obedience training. But once they walked away, there was no connection in their daily life together.
Why was this happening? We spoke about how dogs are so much smarter than we give them credit for. They have learned one key thing in situations like these – context.
Dogs know all about context. Specific behaviors and expectations are something we teach our dogs in different contexts and scenarios, whether intentionally or not.
Max had followed Mary’s lead with their obedience training because Mary was clear that this was a common purpose for them. She didn’t realize it at the time, but she and Max had managed to stay focused on specific exercises because it was fun and rewarding for both of them.
But when the training ended, Max knew that they would disconnect and do their own things. It became a case of “I will let you know when I want something that’s important to me, and you do the same.”
When Mary and Max would go on walks and Mary would pull Max and vice versa, both became disconnected and frustrated.
What Mary realized about finding a common purpose
Mary came to a deeper layer of understanding that would help her and Max walk together well. She realized four key things about finding a common purpose:
- Dogs eagerly join us in activities if they want the same result.
- When we shift our perspective, we can easily find a common purpose in everything we do with our dogs.
- If we struggle to cooperate with our dogs, this is our cue to explore the common purpose idea.
- Having a common purpose transforms your perspective from “we are struggling to fix this behavior” to “we do fun experiments in problem-solving together.”
After reflecting on these epiphanies, Mary realized that she and Max had no real common purpose in several areas of their life. But they both wanted to get to the same place together.
So, Mary decided to keep her focus and her calm intentions activated in the dialogue loop of their entire walk to remind them both of their common purpose. She tried to make their walks fun and interesting experiments with puzzle-solving so they could work together cooperatively.
Mary also shared with me that after this new shift in perspective, she and Max weren’t just qualifying. They were winning at these obedience competitions. They were even catching the attention of onlookers because it was so good.
As Mary said, it was “to allow the brilliance of our new partnership to shine for all the world to see.”
Isn’t that just amazing?
How to find your common purpose
So now it’s your turn to take this lesson on board for your own partnership with your dog. I’m going to share some journal prompts that you can use to explore this idea.
Start by thinking of the initial challenge you wanted to address back in part one of the series, and use these prompts to guide you:
- What is your purpose in this situation?
- Why is this important to you?
- What might your dog’s purpose be, and why might this be important to them?
- Take some time to imagine what life would be like if you could identify the common purpose that you and your dog share
- Other than your perspective and intention, how can you dialogue with your dog about this common purpose and work together cooperatively?
- Can you imagine other areas in your life with your dog where a common purpose will bring added happiness, fulfillment, or success?
That’s what I’ll leave you with this week. I hope you enjoyed learning more about finding a common purpose. It’s such a simple idea and yet something many of us overlook.
Be sure to join me again next week for the final part of this series!
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 170, which you can listen to here.