No Such Thing As No
I'm finally reading The Law of Attraction by Ester and Jerry Hicks, and I'm loving it. Like so many other things in my life right now, it is pulling together a lot of information that I'm aware of and bringing it all together in a really complete way. One piece struck me last night and I saw an immediate connection to our pet relationships. There is no such thing as no.
To quote the book: "When you see something you would like to experience and you say, "Yes, I would like to have that," through your attention to it you invite it into your experience. However, when you see something that you do not want to experience and you shout, "No, no, I do not want that!" through your attention to it you invite that into your experience. In this attraction-based Universe, there is no such thing as exclusion."
So where ever your attention is focused is what you will receive more of. The same is true with our pets. They don't understand the "negative" version of any phrase. "No, don't chew on my shoes!" translates to the dog as a focus on the shoes. "No, don't paw your foot!" Translates to the horse as focusing on the foot. Often when we say these phrases, we already have an image in our head of what the animal is doing that we don't want. The animal can't understand that the picture that is in our head isn't what they should be doing.
The best way to resolve this is to find something positive that we do want to have happen. For the dog, finding a more appropriate toy for them to chew, or finding the ball to play with instead is a way to change the focus. The horse that has a bad habit of pawing should be asked to do something else. That something else can be standing still, but it has to be carefully requested to convey the correct message. As long as our intent and focus are on a different, more positive, kind of behavior, then the animal has a chance to getting it "right."
So when you find your animal doing something you wish they wouldn't it is good to get into a new habit for yourself. Begin by pausing and taking a breath. Clear your mind of what you don't want the animal to do, and your frustration surrounding the thing they are doing. Find a new task, activity, or behavior that you do want them to do and get a clear picture of it in your head. Then calmly redirect the animal to the new task.
This will take practice. I'm still practicing! And it will often take patience. A lot of patience. The only way that most animals will learn and form a new habit is if we as the human can out persist them. This is especially true with horses! Sometimes it does take getting creative to find the right combination of a redirection to reduce or remove the old behavior, but eventually progress is possible.
So what behaviors have you struggled with your pets that could benefit from a fresh perspective?