Archive for May, 2011

Dearest dog carers,

First of all I am honouring Sue, a lady in my walking group, for writing to me.
As I am honouring two more walking friends who asked me to teach them how to walk with a dog on a slack leash. Three persons who read my former article and who took a decision.
I am really very happy and very grateful for Sue’s comments because they inspired me.
I could have felt sad, angry, glad, afraid, annoyed, embarrassed, joyful, happy, defeated, frustrated, anxious, etc… As you can see, there is quite a long catalogue of feelings to choose from when someone tells me or writes me something.

But I FEEL glad with the comments and I am responsible for HOW I feel.
Thank you Sue for sending me the following message:

“Well Bruno, I am sure you dont mean to but sometimes if I ask you a question, you answer me in a manner that makes me feel like I am an idiot. The truth is I am frightened to ask you to teach me. Tomorrow I shall bring just one of my dogs & shall ask you to teach me how to walk Billy on a slack leash.”

First some preliminary remarks.

1. What I am going to write is only my personal opinion. Opinions are the cheapest commodity on Mother Earth because we all seem to have more than enough opinions about everything.
2. What I am going to write is based upon my own personal experience.
3. What I am going to write is based upon my own personal perception.I am looking through my own eyes. I will never be able to look through the eyes of somebody else. The way I perceive the world is my creation. It means for instance that I can create a positive or a negative world.
4. I do not want to convince anyone of my opinion.
5. I am able to write the following text thanks to the teachings of Eva Schoenfeld, MKP=brothers, my parents, my children, Béatrice Van Kerckhove, martial arts masters and friends, authors like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Carl Gustav Jung, James Redfield, Rüdiger Dahlke, Don Miguel Ruiz, John Gray, many clients, many friends, many pupils, many other persons and certainly many dogs.
6. I am not saying that I am right and that the others are wrong.
7. Beware because this is going to be a long letter.

You answer in a manner that makes me feel I am an idiot.

Absolutely true if that is your perception Sue.
The major part of my life I have acted and reacted in a similar way, just like Sue does, when she makes me responsible for her feeling.
In the past it was my conviction that other people were not only responsible for my feelings but other people had to make me happy.It was my perception. And this was especially true with the women I married or lived with as if we were married. Unconsciously I expected them to make me happy. I expected them to make me feel good. In order to get to that result I tried to assume how they wanted me to behave. This led me to a behavioural pattern whereby I was continuously constructing an artificial ME. In most cases the ladies, who were supposed to make me happy, did not live up to my expectations. On the contrary. As I fell in love I also could fall out of love. A while after falling in love they were making me unhappy. Or so I thought. So, I blamed them for what they did to me. They were responsible for my happiness and my unhappiness. Or so I thought.
This was how I lived on emotional automatic pilot until I started discovering that I was living a mediocre life as a totally unconscious man. Slowly I learned how to deal with my shadow, which is the hiding place of my human psyche. It is the place where I hide everything I want to negate and repress. For the major part of my life this hiding place of negative energies was totally necessary for me, given the enormous difficulty of facing my darkest impulses and deepest humiliations.
As I expected other people to make me happy, I was constantly unhappy.
I made the other people responsible for my feelings.
Let me give you an example:
One day I told Eva Schoenfeld, my wife whom I loved very much: “If you are happy, I am happy.”
The moment I said this to her, she started laughing out loud. I felt disappointed, insulted and unhappy. I did not understand her reaction, not even when she explained it to me.
It took me many years, and a divorce, to discover that I am solely responsible for my own life and for my own feelings. This proces has not ended, as it is an never-ending journey.
Sue, I accept what you write. It certainly can be true that you felt like an idiot, like I felt “unhappy” so many times. But you are responsible for your feelings, like I am responsible for mine. At least, that is my opinion.

I am frightened to ask you to teach me.

I know the feeling Sue. This is the way I felt many times in the former unconscious stage of my life. Fear ruled my life. Certainly my fear of failure and my fear of not being good enough.
Regarding what you write I have felt like that because I assumed the other person would think I was an idiot.
But what I assume is something that I construct in my imagination, based upon my perception. It is not something that really exists. As a matter of fact I continuously assumed lots of things. Until I learned to clearly ask what I wanted.
I will tell you the anecdote of the Iceberg Salad.
One day (I had turned sixty and we must have been married for 2 years) my wife Eva had made a prawn cocktail with iceberg salad. Eating it I did not like the taste and suddenly I had the courage to say: “I do not like it.” Eva started laughing and clapping her hands until she could say: “This is the first time you clearly say to me you do not like something I prepared. I am so glad you could do it, because it means an enormous step in your personal development.”
I was astonished.
She was not angry.
She did not call me an idiot.
She was glad.
I had always assumed I had to eat what she prepared without telling her clearly what I wanted. When she for instance asked me if I wanted soup or salad, my standard answer had always been “whatever you like my dear”.
Eva taught me to say I prefer salad, and…many more things.
Today I still have to make an effort to observe my own behaviour when I am making assumptions. The same goes for asking questions and expressing clearly what I want. Expressing clearly what we want is one of the Four Agreements, a book written by Don Miguel Ruiz: Be as clear as possible when communicating with others in order to avoid misunderstandings and suffering.
This is where the part played by my canine teachers is of the utmost importance.
You see, dogs never make assumptions. Humans do it all the time. We certainly make assumptions about dogs and treat them as if they were human beings. This leads to enormous misunderstandings and enormous suffering of both dogs and humans.
Dogs are very easy to understand because they are so clear in their communications. In addition to that they never blame, judge, criticize or moan.
They offer us unconditional love.
Looking back over 18 years of working as a professional doglistener I am amazed how many of my clients talk themselves down. Many times I have listened to people calling themselves “useless, stupid, good for nothing , etc…
Sometimes I could accompany them on their journey out of that self-made prison of low self-esteem and fear. During that journey the dogs are our guides and I am only the interpreter. Working with dog carers I constantly translate what the dogs are telling me in a human language of words. Unfortunately many clients do not want to grasp the meaning of what their dogs are telling them. I call them the clients sailing down the river of Denial.

I shall ask you to teach me how to walk Billy on a slack leash.

Well Sue, maybe you did not read my letter about “I am not a plumber” or maybe I was not clear enough. By the way, this could be two assumptions but I am not going to make them.
Allow me to explain.
When our car breaks down, we go to a workshop and have it repaired.
When our toilet is out of order, we call a plumber and he fixes it.
I am not a mechanic and I am not a plumber.
Our dog is not a car nor is (s)he a toilet.
We live in a fast food society.
Most people prefer a quick fix instead of going through a learning process.
I am a teacher.
Teaching takes time.
Your dog is a sentient living being.
Dogs learn fast when we communicate clearly with them.
We are talking about a dog pulling on a leash here.
Or rather, we are talking about a human being allowing a dog to pull on a leash here.
The human is mentioning a symptom: the dog is pulling.
Many dog carers blame the dog for pulling.
Many dog carers are unwilling to have a look at themselves.
Just like I was unwilling to have a close look at myself during the first 60 years of my life.
When I had my first dog, she was pulling too.
Me too, I blamed her.
Me too, I thought there was something wrong with the dog and most of all I thought there was certainly NOTHING wrong with me.
The well-meaning amateurs of the Belgian club, who were teaching me how to walk the dog, told me to buy a choke chain and to keep choking my bitch until she would walk to heel.
It never worked and I certainly am responsible for the pain my beautiful bitch suffered for years on end.
She suffered because I did not know how to communicate correctly with her.
Today it usually takes a few minutes until a dog walks to heal with me, because I learned how to communicate with dogs, with the result that I understand dogs and dogs understand me.
So, back to basics.
If your dog is pulling Sue, the pulling is a symptom of something else.
Fighting the symptom never brings us the solution.
It makes me think of a lady friend who has been suffering from migraine for years.
For years on end she has been taking pain killers. Her medical doctor is clearly “fighting” a symptom. But he is certainly not offering a solution.
On the contrary.
He tells her she has to learn to live with her pain.
But she is not willing to consider the possibility of learning how to relax herself, for instance by learning how to meditate. Neither is she willing to reestablish the mineral imbalance in her body.
She is being prescribed ever stronger pain killers just like I was told to use a choke chain on my first dog.
What is the solution for a pulling dog?
The solution is to learn how to behave in such a way that the dog pays attention to us, accepts our guidance and respects our leadership.
Remember, I am speaking about a learning proces here.
I am not offering a quick fix.
I am not a plumber.
Some clients ask me: How long does it take?
Can I ask you: How long is a piece of string?
How fast will you learn?
How dedicated will you be?
How much time will you spend on developing yourself?
I do not know.
What I know is that many people say: “I cannot afford it”.
In the Western way of thinking, we have learned that THINGS are of the utmost importance.
We are being brainwashed into investing in THINGS like cars, houses, furniture, money, clothes, jewelry, diamond studded collars for dogs, you name it….
We are also being brainwashed into believing that NEW things are more important than the THINGS we already have.
It is my opinion that this will eventually lead to the destruction of Mother Earth.
Unfortunately most of us are not being educated into investing time (and money) in our personal development.
We are being brainwashed into believing that the more THINGS we have the happier we will be. Many times more NEW THINGS make us unhappy.
Let me give you an example.
It is the living nightmare of a man (I know him) who buys all sorts of magazines about cars, reading them from the first page till the very last. Then he takes a decision and orders a new car. The moment he leaves the showroom of the dealer in his new car (so he told me), he is a bit excited but at the same time he is already thinking about the next new car he is going to buy.
I am not a world famous inventor as I did not invent hot water.
But I discovered that investing in my personal development makes me FEEL connected with the Universe, with Mother Earth, with my loved ones, with every living being on this planet. My direct link with Nature is being provided by my dogs.
The less THINGS I have the better I FEEL.
The less THINGS I have the happier I FEEL.
We are living in a society where TO HAVE is important.
Dogs are living in a society where TO BE is important.
If you are interested in discovering how to really understand your dogs I am offering you my help.
If you think that “training the dog” will offer you the solution to a symptom like a pulling dog, well then I have not been clear enough yet.
I invite you to start your journey. Your dogs will be your guides (if you are willing to listen to them) and I can be your interpreter (if you are willing to learn).

Kindest regards from your Doglistener

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During one of my walks I found myself behind a person who had a dog on a leash. What I saw were two unhappy sentient beings, being linked to each other by a leash.
The human was constantly pulling the dog closer to her/his left leg, while saying something like “heel”. The distance covered by each jerk must have been half a meter. This means that the dog being snatched by the collar around its neck, was displaced over the distance of half a meter, just as if (s)he was a THING like a chair or a box. The dog’s reaction to the painful jerk to the right, was each time to immediately go back to the position (s)he was in, i.e. at the end of the leash, at a distance of about half a meter from the human leg.
It was clear that the human wanted the dog to walk close to him/her but it was also very clear that each jerk was each time, utterly and totally useless.
Is this a comfortable situation for the dog carer to be in?
Is this a comfortable situation for the dog to be in?
According to research done in Germany 96 percent of all dogs have a trauma in the neck. Most of these dogs are “owned” by NICE dog loving people. Any idea how painful a trauma in the neck is? Just ask someone who has been the victim of a whiplash.
Now try to imagine having dozens of whiplashes every day.
You got the picture?
Great isn’t it.
Would you like to be treated like that?
Then, why do so many dog carers submit their dog to that kind of treatment?
Why don’t they ask me to teach them how to communicate correctly with their dogs?
Why they do not say something like: “Look Bruno, we’ve known each other for quite some time and I have seen how you can deal with both dogs and their carers. Would you please teach me how to walk with my dog on a slack leash?”
My answer would be: “It will be my pleasure to teach you dear friend.”
Nevertheless my question for today is: Why people who know me quite well don’t ask me to teach them?
You could read about what I assume is the answer in my letter about DENIAL.
It is my opinion (like Cesar Milan thinks too)that many people prefer to paddle down the river called DENIAL.
Denial is a powerful force in human lives. For some of us, our dogs become projections of our own Egos and we see them the way we want to see ourselves. However, until we see ourselves the way we really are, we cannot help our dogs. One of the hardest things for any human being to do is to admit a mistake and change a behaviour. Most clients keep on telling me how nice their dog is and how they adore her/him. At the same time they are blaming their pets for the unresolved issues in their own lives. For me as an observer it is obvious they are avoiding these issues or are unaware of them.
If you are having difficulties with your dog, the first thing to do is take a good, honest look within. I am more than willing to help you getting there. The second thing you have to do is to cultivate calm assertive energy. I am more than willing to help you reach that state of mind.
If clients are not willing to do that, it becomes very difficult for me to help them.
But if you have the courage and the consistency to travel on the road of personal development, there will be very positive changes not only in the life with your dog, but most of all in the life you lead with yourself and with anyone around you.

Written with love and compassion for both suffering dogs and nice well-meaning humans.


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