Love . . . a simple yet complex word that has so many conditions and expectations.
A word so exploited and commercialized that its value – said to be priceless – is weighed in carats. A word meant to express an emotion based on a balance between the heart and the mind that becomes unbalanced when expressed through material things.
Yet when we speak of our dogs, we speak of their unconditional love. A love that is free of judgment and prejudice. One that is pure, kind and forgiving.
A dog’s love is unburdened by the commercialization of its expression. A dog does not have to give us a possession as an expression of their love for us, nor do we expect them to!
We humans are a walking oxymoron when it comes to love. We contradict ourselves daily as we give our dogs a kiss on the cheek for being cute then scream at the coffee barista for using two per cent instead of skim. I wonder sometimes if we really know what it’s like to love unconditionally. We toss that cliché around when we speak of our dogs like we are flipping pancakes, but how many of us really know what that means?
To get a better understanding of love, we need look no further than the four legged love guru living under our roof.
Dogs are such good examples of what true love means because they have so much love for themselves. You have all heard the saying that you can’t give another what you don’t have for yourself, so clearly dogs are filled with self-love!
This is not to be confused with selfishness. Loving oneself is not selfish. It is actually quite the opposite. Dogs selflessly share the love they have for themselves with others.
Self-love has less to do with a day at the spa being pampered and more to do with figuring out why you have allowed yourself to get so stressed in life that you feel that you need that day at the spa. Dogs rarely stress about anything. They may get extremely excited about the potential for a walk or a car ride but they don’t stress about it. And that in itself is an example of self love, finding joy in the most simple things in life. A walk is never a burden to them but a chance to live presently. A car ride is never a stress-filled adventure through traffic but a chance to stick their heads out the window and take in the sights, smells and sounds.
But when dogs do stress or get anxious about something it is because they are out of balance and this is often a reflection of us rather than them. When we are out of balance in some part of our life, our dogs are as well. If you want to find balance in your own life and more self- love, look to your dog. Where there are troubles afoot with Fido there are troubles afoot with ourselves.
I see this so often in my training classes. A dog that can’t complete a task is seen as frustrating or stubborn to an impatient owner. A dog that won’t come when called is seen as disobedient to an owner who is anxious and controlling. A dog that jumps on people and steals items is viewed as obnoxious and out of control to an owner who has never learned how to set personal boundaries.
Oddly enough, a dog that is a bully with other dogs is rarely seen as a bully by its owner. Bullies are like that.
Dogs are not born with these inappropriate behaviours. Like children they are born innocent and loving. The unwanted behaviours are created by the owners and what is often needed to correct the problem is an attitude adjustment by the human.
And what does that take? It takes looking within to find those parts of our self that need to be changed to become a better human.
Self-love is not about exterior rewards for ourselves, but interior healing and forgiveness of wounds and fears to become unconditionally loving of ourselves and thus those around us.
We need to become more dog.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org