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Tracy Courtney

Broadening perceptions lead to new understandings

Solving The Equation

Many methods focus on the physical aspects of behavior & how to control the motions without consideration of the emotions. The physical aspects of behavior equate to only understanding & working with 1/3 of the problem, so naturally they can only provide 1/3 of the solution

When we begin to consider the relationship of cause & effect from a deeper understanding that includes the mental, emotional & physical attributes of behavior, we begin to open up whole new insights into the true root causes of unwanted behavior & can affect lasting change

Our narrow perceptions of the possible causes of unwanted behaviour tend to focus on the external environment: sights, sounds, sensations, other people & past history. What if we widened our perceptions & began to look at behavior as not a problem, but a lack of communication & understanding with us, instead of external stimuli? What if the root cause of your dog dragging you down the road isn't because of the other dog they see, but because there is no connection with you so they've learned to focus on their environment instead of you & they're dragging you only because it's become a habit? What if I told you that dogs are like little biological robots who are easily programmable? What if I also told you that if you aren't taking the time to input the programming for what you do want, then the dogs have no choice but to create their own programming, which will inevitably become habits that you don't want? Who is responsible for the programmed behaviour? Accepting this truth is where real & lasting change begins!

Where does changing our dog’s behaviour begin? With us! We must be willing to change our beliefs & the habits we’ve developed because these concepts are responsible for our dog’s behaviour, not our dogs. Many will disagree with this in the beginning & cite behaviours that their dogs regularly perform that couldn’t possibly have been taught by them, this is normal because we haven't been shown how to look at the bigger picture yet. We are taught to believe that our dogs have their own personalities, which is true in a sense, therefore they will develop their own desires & habitual tendencies, but what if I were to say that dogs are like little biological robots that function predominantly through their programming & not through individual desires? What if I said that we are responsible for steering those desires? Sure, they do express individual likes, dislikes, fear & avoidance behaviours just like we do, but what if those personal expressions could be rewritten immediately & permanently if we had a little more understanding when it came to the deeper roots of this programming?

I’m not pointing to micromanagement, force & control in these situations, but having the ability to alter the programming, in order to create mental, emotional & physical balance in our dogs? To move beyond the sit, stay & heel in order to replace worry, fear, avoidance & aggression with confidence, clarity, self-control & relaxation for the dog? To be able to teach the dog how to think for themselves & make the personal choice to seek balance in these situations instead of us trying to control the outcome & take on the responsibility of our dog’s behaviour? Is it possible to shift the responsibility of how our dog acts onto our dogs instead of assuming it ourselves? To make it our dog's responsibility to act correctly in any given situation? This isn’t about pointing fingers, right or wrong, good or bad. This is about opening up new possibilities, new perceptions and new understandings. If these things are possible, is it something worth taking the time to look into?

If we were to visualize ourselves walking down a straight path with our dog & we decided that we wanted to get some help to change some of our dog’s unwanted habitual behaviour, that single path would suddenly split into many different paths, leading in several directions. Looking at all of these different paths, it wouldn’t take long to feel a little overwhelmed at all of the possibilities & begin to feel stressed about how to choose the right path to move forward on. This is a common impasse, that many of us face when we decide that we do need some help.

If we begin to analyze the paths, which we do when we’re trying to research through books, videos & other people, we would notice that one of the paths is much wider than the others & the paths range from one extreme to the another. The widest path would consist of many teachers who follow a common theme of ideologies that involve some type of force & control. These revolve around looking at the physical attributes of behaviour & using different types of gadgets such as choke, shock & pinch collars, harnesses & halties to correct unwanted behaviour. The other paths would vary in their use of force, dictation, drilling & control until they reached the other extreme of allowing personal expression without interference or taking extremely long periods of time to accomplish the simplest shifts in behaviour. If we can establish now that our dog is not in mental, emotional or physical balance, where is the balance going to be found in these extreme, corrective or non-corrective measures?

What I would like to point to here is the one thing all of these paths have in common & has been become a common belief in most who own dogs, through the influence of all of these paths, over centuries. The underlying belief is that there is a problem that needs to be corrected or changed in the dog. Just like people who decide that they need to go for therapy sessions, there is an underlying belief that something is wrong with them & that they need help to fix a problem. What if there wasn’t really a problem & instead of trying to fix the physical & external behaviour, we consider are the cause of the problems, all we really had to do was to change or outlook or perception of what’s happening instead? What if we really don’t need someone else to tell us what the problem is & how to fix it, what if we could fix the perceived problems by only changing the beliefs we have established & so desperately cling to instead?

What if, instead of believing we have no choice but to walk forward down one of these forked paths in order to find the help we need, I asked you to turn around & walk backwards down your original path that has led you to these multiple, confusing paths? Is this a possibility you have ever considered? Could this be the new direction you were looking for all along? What if you could reverse the beliefs that unwanted behaviour has to be addressed individually & directly? What if you could reverse the beliefs that you have to create blocks of time for training sessions & constant cookie-cutter repetition is necessary for your dog to learn something new? What if you could reverse the beliefs that sounds, sights, movements & other people are responsible for how your dog behaves? What if you could take preventative measures to stop unwanted behaviour before it ever starts, so there would no longer be beliefs about correcting behaviour that has already occurred, past-tense? What if you could reverse these & many more common beliefs? Would that be worth taking the time to research? 

Note: The following articles are a continuation of the equine articles & not separate. All articles flow together like the pieces of a puzzle & these will often refer back to the equine articles. All articles pertain equally to both species.


Change begins with us, not the perceived problem

Replacing Complexity with Simplicity


Foundational Support Connection


Accepting Discomfort


Teaching Through Silence


Cause & Effect




Extinguishing the Spark


Silent Listening


Mind Gears


Making Deposits