This is probably the other word I say the most in a session, even for a cat or a bird. Sometimes training means just spending the next six weeks being more conscious of who is running the household, and becoming the team manager instead of watching one of the other beings run things. As a horse person most of my life, I know the value of training. When you’re dealing with a 1,000-pound animal, without training, boundaries, or respect, it can be downright dangerous. Training, boundaries, or respect is a matter of safety and security for dogs, cats, and birds.
People will argue that they don’t want to break the animals spirit. That would fall within the lines of what trainers call loving a dog to death. Some of us are fortunate that the dog or cat picks up on subtle cues or the learned command after the first time of hearing it. But the rest of the dog/cat/horse/bird and other animals may need a little more prodding. That nudge can come by way of creating better habits around situations, thus creating safety.
Plenty of people have that seemingly magical animal that does everything they want or clings to them and wouldn’t stray. But plenty of people don’t—if they did, I wouldn’t be so busy!
Our behavior has its origins in survival. When we moved up the food chain, our behavior splintered off into being driven by approval or control. You can watch your animals and see if any of the behaviors fall into those three categories. Some days it shifts. Anxiety around a thunderstorm for example begs for a form of safety. If you know that your animal is reactive to the noise of fireworks on July 4th, you take extra measures to ensure their safety before they get neurotic.
In the same light, if you know your animal functions from approval or control, by taking small steps in training you can still give them the esteem or teach them to be a team player.
To me, training is just the foundation that you play with or experiment with every day. It’s like setting up a secret language that is unique to each of them, yet at the same time it enables everyone to play by the same rules. My dog is half Border Collie—Border Collies are full time dogs. When I’m not paying attention and we are not tuned in, then she’s like Wile E. Coyote. She gets a look in her eye that is clearly blowing me off. We have to go back to boot camp when this happens. She has trained me that rather than taking all of her rights away, I should be ahead of the game; always do a little every day.
There’s a saying that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Training could be an opportunity to grow with another species. We started in pre-school, then grade school, then middle school, then high school, some of us go on to college and then we may even choose to continue our studies. We aren’t dumped out into the world expected to be citizens at the age of four.
In one of my classes, a very wise animal artist named Nina brilliantly responded with, “That’s true, and my grandson is learning from his mother how to be 36 and my daughter is learning from me how to be my age and I am learning from my mother how to be in my 80s when I get there.”
I take learning and training seriously for all of this work. I have learned many modalities just so that I know the nature of the benefits of different healing techniques and can specifically recommend it. In particular, I can’t get enough of training. Good training is something to put your trust in. There is as much in it for us as there is for the animals.
Excerpted from Communication with all Life, Revelations of an Animal Communicator (Hay House, 2007)