A Matter of Trust

Cavelier King Charles Spaniel

© By Linda J. Brodzik, Dog Trainer & Behavior SpecialistI am a wilderness hiker. I love being in the wild, far away from civilization, becoming a part of the natural world and the natural order of things.  When I hike deep into the wilderness I have only the strength of my mind, body and spirit to keep me safe, as well as that of my hiking companion. We rely on each other and place great trust in each other to not only keep us both safe from harm but also to ensure our success and comfort.  This trust has been built over time through many interactions and ultimately the continued and predictable display of sincere and caring positive communication and supportive actions that always empower the other with success and encouragement to continue on.  I must trust my companion as she must trust me to feel comfortable, safe and capable as we venture through the untamed world.

Trust occurs on four levels: mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. . .

First, trust occurs on a mental level. By this I mean that we must be conscious of our words and the meaning they relay. We must say what we mean clearly and without confusion and we must be consistent and predictable in our words and the meaning they represent. We must carry through as we stated and not give mixed messages that confuse, frustrate or cause resentment.

Second, trust occurs on an emotional level. Our words and our actions must support a calm and relaxed, excepting and interactive emotional state. Our actions should never induce fear, anxiety, frustration or despair. These emotional states only serve to create distance, mistrust and defiance. These are counterproductive to a healthy and trusting relationship.

Third, trust occurs on a physical level. Our actions should always support the physical well-being and safety of the other.  Actions should never cause harm, pain or injury.

And fourth, trust occurs on a spiritual level. I know that this may seem out of the box for many but I believe it to be a true and real level of trust our dogs – as well as we – confront on a regular basis. By spiritual trust I mean that we must work through our communication and actions to retain and support, if not build upon the joy and individuality of each other. Our actions and communication should always be in support of the individual’s self and personal joys. There are times in the wilderness and in life as a whole that we surrender to each other’s guidance. We can only do this fully and with trust if we feel safe and that our best interest is at the forefront of the other’s thoughts and actions.

As I contemplate on how important these factors are with my hiking companion as well as the other people I share my life with, I cannot help but think about the correlation this has with my relationships with my animal companions: Sean, my young but oh, so big Shire horse; and Elsa, my beautiful and playful bullmastiff dog. I want to trust them, that they will be attentive when needed, well-behaved in social situations and at home. That I will be safe and comfortable with them. But they also want to, no, they need to trust me. If they are to seek my guidance, my leadership, follow my direction and feel safe with me in all ways I must earn and retain their trust. I do this by being conscious of each and every interaction I have with them. I must always ask, “does this action, interaction, reaction teach my dog/horse how to succeed and feel confident in her/his actions and build a trusting bond between us or does it act to oppress and cause fear?” As I stated in a previous article, I believe with all my heart and soul that we should strive to always, at the very least retain the joy (and trust) of each individual we meet, animal or human alike, if not build upon this.

May you find joy in all your relations!

To learn more about my training methods, ask about availability in a dog obedience class or to schedule an in-home, private behavior consultation, please contact me today.

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