Recently I heard this Sanskrit word, Santosha. It means contentment. It means to be in harmony with all of the things, good and bad, that make your circumstance. It is the practice of saying “and” rather than “but.”
Of course, this made me think about dogs, dog training, and the often-difficult behavioral issues I help people with (and that I have dealt with, in my own dogs). Just think about this one tiny change in your language, when we talk about things in our dogs that frustrate or annoy us.
You might say:
My dog is a great agility dog but he can’t be crated anywhere near the ring.
Running my dog is fun but frustrates me so much!
My dog loves agility but he hates the trial environment.
Or you could say:
My dog is a great agility dog, and he doesn’t do well crated near the ring.
Running my dog is fun and it’s frustrating at times.
My dog loves agility, and he hates agility trials.
See how much it changes? Now the dog that has special crating needs is still recognized as an excellent performance partner. The dog that can be frustrating to run is also a blast on course. Dogs that hate agility trials can still love agility; they are not the same thing.
This applies to the way we think of ourselves as competitors and trainers, too. We could say:
We did our best at nationals but we didn’t make finals.
My dog is everything I wanted but he is too much for me.
I’m a good trainer but I need help with my dog’s separation anxiety.
Things change a lot when we apply santosha here:
We did our best at nationals and we didn’t make finals.
My dog is everything I wanted and I realize he is too much for my current skill level.
I am a good trainer and I need help with this separation anxiety.
Recognizing that we can both do our best and not reach competitive goals is important. Knowing where our limits are as trainers is important too. By stating and instead of but in these cases, we are taking responsibility for our own growth.