Dogs don’t demand much of us. They ask to be loved, fed, taken on walks, and for you to show up exactly as you are. It’s that last one that can feel tricky for many of us. Too often, we bury our unique character underneath the weight of what other people around us expect. Other people’s judgements about what is “good” and “bad” dictate our behavior and feelings of self-worth or shame. Being just who you are can feel like a herculean effort.
Dogs may ask that we show up exactly as we are, but they don’t judge either. That’s the beauty of them as companions. They ask that we be fully present in each moment with them, exactly as we are, and that’s enough. They don’t care AT ALL about what you’re wearing, your political affiliation, or your reading / watching preferences while you do it. There’s no judgement, just presence.
Dog trainers discuss judgement a lot, because it’s one of the top things that hinders our dogs’ training progress. We tend to get really worked up about our dog’s “bad” behavior. We worry how it makes us look when they jump up on people, or assume that when they don’t do what we ask it’s because they don’t respect us or think we’re bad people. When training, we layer all this heavy judgement on that hinders ours and our dog’s progress.
Instead of getting worked up about our dog's less than desirable behavior, trainers know that you simply need to recognize the reality of what's going on, then determine how to address it. When you remove the judgement from the situation and instead focus on what’s truly there, you make more progress, faster.
Judgement pulls us out of the present and clouds our vision of what is really in front of us. This is why our dogs demand we show up as our authentic selves. If we don’t, we aren’t being fully present. We’re clouding our reality with judgement and performance and keeping ourselves from being fully in each moment. We can’t pay attention in the same way our non-judgmental dogs can and can’t be mentally there for the time we spend with them.
Yes, our dogs love us. They look up to us adoringly and think we are the most amazing human they have ever met. This isn’t because they have an idealized version of who we are. It’s because they know who we are and love us because of it. All we need to do to earn their loyalty is love them in return and be present in each moment by showing up as our authentic selves.
Today, be the person your dog thinks you are: yourself. They’ll love you for it.