Human Empowerment Lessons from the Dog Whisperer

Even if you don’t live with a dog, you may be familiar with the National Geographic Channel’s program “Dog Whisperer” starring Cesar Millan. Each episode features Cesar working with families, individuals and their dogs.

In virtually every episode the dog whisperer gets troubled dogs on the road to rehabilitation and people better trained as owners. Cesar offers a set of core truths learned by working with dogs and watching and interacting with dogs just about his whole life.

Believe it or not, we think that the lessons taught by this dog whisperer can help you live a happier, more empowered life. Of course, we humans are different than our canine friends. There can be pack mentalities in our family, friend and work environments though we don’t advise you to always try to be the pack leader.

Much can be learned when you follow another person’s leadership as well. At the same time, who wouldn’t want to experience the sheer joy that is apparent in a dog’s “smile” with his or her tail wagging? Look at a happy dog-whether he or she is running after a ball, leaping into a pond, or quietly lounging on the floor. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that contentment and spark for life more of the time?

Be in the moment.
We’ve all heard this suggestion before but how many of us really follow it? With the humans he works with, Cesar Millan often points out how in the moment dogs are. They don’t tend to react from the past unless their humans have taught them to. According to Millan, it is not a dog’s way to hold a grudge, anticipate a negative event, or live in the past. That, unfortunately, is a human tendency. And it’s one we can unlearn!

When you find yourself thinking ahead to your to-do list, last night’s argument with your spouse, an upcoming parent- teacher conference, the end of the month bill paying, or even a longed for vacation– STOP! It is such a common occurrence to spend your present worrying about the future or rehashing the past. So when do you get to live?

Take time to look around and feel within yourself. What is going well for you right here and now? It could be something as “small” as the crystal clear cloudless blue sky that graces your day. How do you feel at this very moment? Now is the time for appreciating your life and now is the moment for celebrating what you have and what you want.

Let your feelings flow.
As Lily walks her pet dog Goldie, she notices the ease with which Goldie seems to move through life. Even though she was scolded for sticking her nose in the trash can, Goldie doesn’t let that ruin her day. In fact, it seems to Lily that Goldie experienced the momentary “oops, I’m in trouble” and then moved on. Lily wonders to herself why it seems so difficult for her to do the same. Sound familiar?

From time to time dogs can also become stuck in challenging emotions. This is sometimes what brings Cesar to a family. Whether it’s a dog too afraid to walk on linoleum floors or one who is terrified of loud noises, Cesar works with the dog to help him or her move through those fearful feelings. It is a process that takes time, patience and perseverance, but in the end the dog is happier and more at ease with life.

We all know that when we’re stuck in particular feelings, it seems like everything else going on in our lives fades to the background. It might be anger, panic, grief or some other emotion that became lodged in our consciousness after a traumatic event or even something more subtle. In the midst of the stuck feelings, it might even seem like we’ll never be truly happy again. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

No matter what the apparent cause of emotions that appear to dominate our lives, we can move through those difficult feelings and let them go. There are many ways to release when you are stuck.

For some people creating a ritual around letting go is helpful. You might burn old letters in a fireplace. Others find working with a coach or participating in a therapy such as breathwork freeing. Making time for quiet reflection and meditation is almost always useful. Try to stay focused on your emotions and not on the events around the emotions.

You may realize that some of the beliefs you have about yourself, your life and the initial event are a large part of what’s keeping you feeling stuck. Know that at anytime you can change your beliefs.

Take a good look at the dog in your life or just one walking down the street. If it’s a happy-looking dog, soak in the example and allow yourself to feel the joy that’s available to you. Now wag your tail and smile!