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Tracy Courtney

Replacing Complexity with Simplicity

If we were to dissect a single common dog behaviour & begin to look at it through a much broader perspective, what might we find? If we were to dissect the reason behind why so many dogs pull on the leash for example, & compare the association of cause & effect, we might find some interesting insights into what we think is happening & what is actually happening. While guiding people into deeper understandings for the single root cause of the multiple behaviours they’re seeking help with, I always begin by asking what they feel are the reasons for the behaviour. In every case, I receive a long list of perceived causes that the person feels are responsible.


In the case of pulling on the leash, the answers always revolve around external factors such as, it’s because of the dog they see across the road, the skateboarder, the extra energy they’ve built up because they’re young & playful, the enticing smells, the quick movement of the children, because they don’t like cats or squirrels, & the list goes on & on & on.

We can’t solve problems by using the same line of thinking used to create the problem in the first place & so we must begin to look outside the boxes we’ve created. The first step is the recognition that the boxes are even there. We base our conclusions on the human existence, how we perceive, how we feel, how we think about the world around us & what others have told us.


If we can agree that these concept boxes haven’t been working for the majority of us, then we can conclude that something is missing. If the vast majority of the methods taught only seem to work long-term for a select few & many of us are left scratching our heads, isn’t it logical that we should begin to move away from these practices to find more sustainable answers? If many of these methods require cruel gadgets to create some type of control, then there is definitely a problem here. If we believe control is the answer in the first place, then this speaks to why so many are willing to use these halties, shock & pinch collars. The second step is in the recognition that the human existence is complex & the animal existence is simple. Because of our complex intellectual processes, we pull these comfortable feeling habits into the ways we try to understand & solve problems. We automatically conclude that all of these complex, external factors are the cause of the problems, so therefore they will require complex solutions, right?


Many revert to using force, punishment & learned helplessness through gadgets because they are only interested in quick fixes. They don’t want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary “fixing the problems” with their dogs. What if the dogs weren’t the problem? What if our thought processes were really the problem & made these situations so much more complex & lengthy to solve than they need to be? How many of us would be willing to accept responsibility for our own beliefs & actions & the fact that we are really the source of the problems & not our dogs? For those who are willing to accept responsibility & genuinely want to understand & move forward, I suggest reading the following two articles on the website for a broader perspective relating to this article; Deeper Listening & Characteristics of the Problem Horse. If these ignite the spark, then I would suggest reading all of the equine articles as they also apply here.


Returning to the “problem” of why our dog pulls on the leash, if we want to open & step out of the box of complexity & into simplicity, it will require your willingness to let go of what you think you already know in order to open space for something new. I can offer the answer to the single root cause of this problem in one simple word: connection. There is a lack of connection with you. How can you substantiate this? The next time you have your dog out on a leash, take a few moments to quietly observe what your dog is actually doing & not the environment around you. What you will find is that your dog is focused on the environment. Not only will their head be looking in the opposite direction of where you’re standing, but their entire body will also be pointing away from you & the more mentally, emotionally & physically they are lacking in balance, will equate to more movement of their feet. In short, your dog is more interested in everything except you.


This lack of connection will inevitably lead to what I have termed behaviour extensions. What we fail to understand is that it was the many single words or behaviours that accumulated, escalated & built up into this seemingly single problem of pulling on the leash. All behaviour will progress & escalate in predictable patterns & rates which can become as familiar to us as reading a sentence. In a sentence, one word leads to the next, to the next & so forth & the combination of these words will progress into a sentence that will convey a particular meaning. Once we learn to look beyond the physical attributes of behaviour, which equates to only having the ability to see the whole sentence & not the individual words that make up that sentence, a whole new world of understanding emerges that we didn’t realize was even possible. When we become familiar with reading the individual words, we can then begin to anticipate & expect certain words to group together before actually reading them & this is where the ability to predict behaviour before it actually happens is found, so it can be prevented before it even starts.


In short, when you offer eternal causes as listed above for your dog’s behaviour, what you are actually saying is that I can only read the entire sentence & am completely oblivious to the individual words that make up that sentence. All of the behaviours you will list are behaviour extensions that have escalated from a single root cause, but you are unable to grasp this concept because you choose to focus on the whole sentence. Can it really be as simple as addressing the single root cause, in order to eliminate all of the behaviour extensions without having to address them individually or directly? Parameters is putting the walk to the talk, if you’re genuinely ready to step out of the box of complexity & into the space of simplicity.

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