The Feeling In Tense


June 4, 2014 by Julia West

Dash and I (and the untrainer, too!) recently started the Behavior Modification Program offered at Finish Forward. Much like Dash’s “manic” behavior, there is a quality to the exercises that is hard to describe accurately with words alone. But there is one very big, simple lesson that hit home for me – tension feeds intensity.

As anyone who’s struggled with a reactive dog can attest, it is very easy to let tension creep into every situation where there might be a trigger for your dog. Your body coils and braces, you keep the leash tight. Your dog tenses up too – if he wasn’t already, then he was does once he feels all that traveling down the line.

The tension becomes a muscle. It is strong and well-practiced, ready to fire at any moment.

Now we are learning to uncoil. I have to let go of the emotions that have collected in that tension – guilt, sadness, frustration. I have to quiet the voice in my head that reminds me of all the times before, when things went wrong. Dash is learning to recognize that tension in the leash means more than someone tethered to the other end.

The wonderful thing is that ease feeds easy. The more we learn to work without tension, the better it feels. The better it feels, the easier it is to maintain. Comfort and happiness begin supplant the pain and angst. The muscle is still strong, but fighting isn’t so hard when actually you’re letting go.

Dash the Boxer relaxes on his dog bed

Our easy steps are adding up to so much more than just moving forward.

This post also featured on the DABAD for the Success theme

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