We can often be torn between training methods. Ethics are constantly shifting and what may once have been common practice is now unacceptable to many. Even simple and straightforward exercises have been brought into question. Recently I’ve even seen posts about the legitimacy of teaching sit.
We want to use good methods and avoid bad methods. But are things always so black and white? Is it obvious where the dividing line is? How about if instead of judging everything as good or bad, we think of it as beautiful training? What’s the difference between good training and beautiful training? Imagine you’re doing what you think of as good training; maybe even excellent training. When it goes not as expected, maybe your best efforts are not paying off, it’s very easy to become frustrated; after all, this is supposed to be good training.
Beautiful training is different. It’s hard, if not impossible, to become agitated while thinking of training as a beautiful action. A beautiful mind is the opposite of an agitated mind. It contains peace, faith, trust, confidence, equanimity, and mindfulness. It’s not about being perfect or the best, it’s about being wholesome.
In Buddhism, the word karma, means that actions have consequences. The Buddhist teachings about karma have commonly been translated as good karma resulting in good consequences. This is a misinterpretation; the original Buddhist teachings speak of beautiful actions resulting in beautiful consequences. This is what got me thinking of its application in dog training. Isn’t it instantly easier when we think of training or husbandry as a beautiful action?
Whatever you train, do it beautifully.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read