Two weeks ago, I wrote about Hollywood dog trainers and how, while they may fool their audiences by using different dogs for different tricks, we can’t fool our dogs because they can tell when we’re being inauthentic.
However, when people have had trouble projecting calm, assertive energy, I’ve also advised them to “fake it until they feel it.” That is, if they can’t feel something emotionally or mentally, then mimic the physicality of it until the emotions happen naturally.
This seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? How can we fake it and yet be authentic to our dogs at the same time? Well, let me tell you how.
You cannot lie to your dog
It’s true that we can’t lie to our dogs because they’ll see right through it. Our energy is the product of our emotions and intention — so if we try to do something that doesn’t match that energy, our dog will sense it.
Here’s an example: Has your dog ever hidden when it’s time to go to the vet, even if you think you’ve done nothing to give it away? You can smile and say, “Want to go to the park?” in your most cheerful voice and even put on your “dog park” hat, but you still have the intention to go to the vet and the emotions associated with it.
These are what your dog sees — the reality, not the surface. She reacts to the inauthenticity — that disconnect between what you’re saying and what you’re feeling. This represents unbalanced energy, and she will either fight, flee, or avoid you.
So, again, how can you possibly fake it until you feel it and fool your dog?
The power of auto-suggestion
Simple. In this case, you’re not lying to your dog. You’re lying to yourself. Now I don’t mean this as the bad kind of lying to yourself that we call denial. Rather, you’re using your body and your mind to trick your own emotions.
For example, you may not feel very calm and assertive, so it’s time to use your imagination. Pretend that you’re George Clooney, the Pope, Queen Elizabeth II, or Michelle Obama. Pick whomever you personally relate to. It could also be a parent, sibling, or favorite teacher, or even a fictional character. The only important part is that they represent someone you think of as calm and assertive.
Now play that part. Walk and move the way you think that they would. Think the thoughts you think they’d think: “I am important. I am powerful. I am famous.” Finally, envision positive results. See yourself walking your dog successfully.
So what happens? Chances are, you’ll begin to feel the confidence. As I said, what you’re really doing is fooling your own emotions with your imagination, and you’re changing your intention through your thoughts.
Emotion times intention equals energy, and energy is what your dog responds to. So even if you weren’t feeling confident at first, if you fake it, you’ll quickly make it.
Try this quick little exercise to see what I mean. Stand up. Now, slouch. Let your shoulders slump and your head drop. Pull into yourself and bend your knees. Stand like this for a minute, then examine how you feel. Defeated? Hopeless? Confused?
Now stand up straight. Head up, chest out, shoulders back, legs planted. Stand like this for a minute. Now how do you feel? Proud? Confident? Certain?
Intellect and emotion
Because we are creatures of intellect and emotion, we tend to forget what a powerful effect our own bodies can have on both. This is why exercise is as important to humans as it is to dogs. Get the body moving and active, and it can do positive things for our feelings and our thoughts. And it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise — running, jogging, walking, martial arts, dancing, yoga… All of these serve to reconnect our minds and hearts — intellects and emotions — to our bodies — our instincts.
When our minds, hearts, and bodies are connected, then we find balance, and this meeting of our three parts is the place that we call spirit. But the most powerful of the three is instinct. This is where dogs have always lived, and this is why they can tell instantly when we’re not being authentic.
So “fake it until you feel it” really means letting go of our intellects and emotions and trusting our instincts. And when we trust our instincts, our dogs will see that as absolute authenticity.
You can’t trick your dog — but you can trick yourself.
Stay calm, and be authentic.
Have you mastered positive self-talk? What are some of your mantras?