Earlier this week, one of those giant, Florida, summer afternoon downpours demanded we reschedule our dog training session. I’ll admit to mixed emotions. On one hand, I had been looking forward to showing off our progress, feedback from our coach and getting the next set of assignments. On the other? The accidental drowning of an iPhone in a raincoat pocket helped me discover a strong preference for watching those storms while indoors and dry.
To make the best use of our extra practice days, I asked the trainer a couple of questions about working with my shepherd. Isabella (yes, that’s her real name) and I have a complicated history. She has never felt completely safe on-leash when there are strange dogs around and, while we are making progress in many areas, I wasn’t satisfied with my work on this problem. I did not want to move backward to where she gets anxious, I get nervous and the whole scene gets ugly in a hurry.
I’m a big fan of layered, generalized learning. I get pretty happy when, for example, I can apply something I learned at yoga to my dog-training practice and vice versa. Or when my trainer reinforces lessons I learned (and taught) back when I worked as a therapist.
I explained to our coach that I’d achieved some success keeping Isabella more engaged with me than with the neighborhood dogs who sound off as we pass their fenced yards. “Find the edge of her bubble and work there,” was the advice I got.
Everybody’s got a comfort zone — even our dogs. And each of us is different. What may be a comfortable social space for you may feel nosey and intrusive to me. Another thing we know about personal boundaries is that they vary according to time, place or situation. We feel a completely different level of comfort and intimacy with our partners and children than we do with fellow concert-goers or alone in a dark alley. Isabella can stay focused on the same side of the street as the low-energy Labrador but needs a bit more distance from the shepherd/pitbull duo guarding the neighbor’s landscape business. Duh.
Healthy boundaries enhance relationships and increase confidence. Hmmm. I can do this. I can say “no” to people or situations that don’t fit my goals. And I can do the same for my dog. It’s a decision that leaves so much more room for “yes.”
Do you need establishing better boundaries with your #innercritic? Check out The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head