E293: Hélène Lawler - Big Feelings at Both Ends of the Leash

When your dog has big feelings it can often inspire big feelings in you, too. In this episode, Hélène Lawler and I talk about how handlers can bring their best selves to the training picture by diving into their own big feelings. 


Melissa Breau: This is Melissa Breau, and you're listening to the Fenzi Dog Sports Podcast, brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, an online school dedicated to providing high quality instruction for competitive dog sports, using only the most current and progressive tending methods. Today at Hélène Lawler here with me to chat about living with and loving dogs with big feelings. Welcome back to the podcast.

Hélène Lawler: Hi Melissa. It's great to be back.

Melissa Breau: So to start us out, can you just remind everybody a little bit about you, your current crew and what you're working on with them?

Hélène Lawler: Sure. So, me, my current crew I have, I have a house full of Border Collies and a couple of Kelpies and a couple of livestock guardian dogs. And I live on a small hobby sheep farm in Eastern Ontario. And what I've been working on lately is I've got three things that are my focus. So specifically I've been working really hard on my herding skills, like really developing and advancing my skills for training dogs to work sheep, livestock in general, but especially sheep. And from that, what has stemmed for my winter project, which I'm really excited about, we won't talk about it today, but I'm really excited about it, is developing a fitness regime specifically for herding dogs and very tangentially related to what we'll be talking about. What I've discovered is that there's a lot of stuff around fitness and physical ability that can interfere with our training that we don't realize is actually stemming from a mechanical or physical problem.

And that can actually also contribute to arousal issues and, and big feelings. So I'm really, really curious to see what that work is going, where that work is gonna lead me. I'm just starting out so I can't really talk more about it because I don't have any data to share or, but, but it's my, it's gonna be my winter project and I'm super excited about that.

And then the other thing I'm working on these days is just studying the nervous system and understanding how the nervous system works at both ends of the leash. We'll be talking about that for sure.

Melissa Breau: Yeah, that's a big topic in and of itself, right?

Hélène Lawler: It is.

Melissa Breau: So speaking of that, obviously living with dogs with big feelings can be really hard. So do you wanna just talk a little bit about kinda what goes into that? Like what does that look like on a day-to-day basis living with kind of these big feeling dogs?

Hélène Lawler: Okay, so as I said, I have Border Collies, Kelpies and Marema guard, livestock guardian dogs. These are all breeds that generally have big feelings in general. So I thought, well, you know, a good thing to do is just kind of define what do I mean when I talk about dogs with big feelings, which, cuz that can mean a lot of things to different people. So the way I mean that is basically that we have dogs that have emotional responses to a specific context. And that emotional response triggers a behavior that we find either socially unacceptable or is problematic.

So for instance, my livestock guardian dogs will bark a lot and that's not a problem because they are doing their job. I live on a farm, I have no neighbors, I want them to bark. I wanna know if somebody shows up, I wanna know if there's a coyote. I wanna know if there's a fox in my barn. I am totally fine with that.

So their big feelings, which translate to behaviors of barking do not cause or is not socially unacceptable and is not problematic for me. If I move to the city with those dogs, those behaviors where they have a lot to say about everything that goes on around me would be problematic. And so I see a lot of these big feeling challenges that we encounter as trainers to be very context specific.

And so that's something that's one way to kind of evaluate what's going on with these dogs is to kind of think about the context they're in. And so how does that play out in daily life? Well, I just gave an example and so it depends like, like a dog that has a big feel has like lots to say or about going to classes and trials, you know, as dog sport trainers is a, is an obvious one for, for probably most of us here and dog sports are generally involved going to classes, not always, but going to classes and going to trials. And so dogs that have big feelings, they may bark at other dogs, they may bark at other handlers; they may shut down.

The other thing I should mention when I think of big feelings is it doesn't have to be a big action. Big feelings can also create dogs that shut down that– so you have the, the worked up dogs that, that react and that, so if you think about it, we have when, when they, when they are stimulated by the environment, they will have a reaction. Their reaction will be, if they get stimulated into a state of over arousal, they will go into either a fight or flight reaction or they can go into a freeze and shut down reaction. And it depends on, and some dogs can do both depending on the context. So when we that, when we get into that zone of over arousal, be it a fight or flight, so fight or you know, fight reaction would be bark, spin, lunge, hackles up all of that. When we, when they, and we see a lot of that when we take them out into the world, a flight reaction to the dog that's just gonna run away. And then we can have fawning reactions so they like crawl all over us and you know, want lots of appeasement behavior. And then the freeze reaction, which is generally what, what the nervous system will go to when it can't fight, it can't flee and it can't appease, it just shuts down. So when we see dogs get really slow and sticky and shut down, which, which is still a big feelings response, it's just a, it's just sort of at the other end of the spectrum. But it can be just as challenging for us in different ways. The ones that get like really barky lungey, they trigger certain emotional responses in the handler and then the ones that get really shut down and slow and sticky and sniffy tend to elicit different feelings in the handler. And whether that happens at a trial, going for a walk down the street, you wanna do social things with your friends, you want to, you just wanna train. Or even sometimes just living in your house, like I said, if I lived in the city with my livestock dogs, I would struggle. That would be, that would be hard.

Melissa Breau: Right. Yeah, Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

So you started to get into this, but can we dive a little deeper into that? Like how it impacts the handler piece? Like what, what kind of feelings are we talking about here?

Hélène Lawler: Yeah, absolutely. So to kind of continue my definition of dogs with big feelings, when we, when you think about, it's like the dog has, there's something that happens in the world around them. The dog has an emotional response to that, that that triggers a behavior and the dog's behavior triggers an emotional response in us. And that's where, that's where the problems start for us. That's where things get hard for us is when we have these, we have big feelings about our dogs' behaviors because they have big feelings.

Again, my livestock guardian dogs out in the field barking at a coyote. I have no emotional reaction to that. That is not a problem. My, you know, when I first actually, when I first moved to the country though, that used to keep me up at night, I used to lie in bed awake, incredibly stressed out worrying that my neighbors were gonna come, you know, call the authorities on me cuz I had, I could hear them, the dogs barking because I had that worry from living in the city. So it's really, I thought that was super interesting that the same behavior and the same person living in the same house, I now know, now I know like first of all my neighbors, I know all my neighbors now they're great. Second of all, none of them can actually hear my dogs cuz they live far enough away.

Or if they do, it doesn't bother them. And, it's also totally legal where I live because they're doing their jobs. So there is no, there are no, like no one could call the authorities on me even if they wanted to because you're allowed to have barking dogs, barking guardian dogs around livestock. So, but I had to– when I first came here, I had big feelings about my dogs barking and now I don't even, I don't, the only time I ever notice it is if they have a certain bark, which tells me I need to go out and check on what's going on cuz there's a problem.

It's so much of this is really what goes on inside the handler and understanding that is the work we need to do. So what can happen is we have our dogs with big feelings. So we can have the lungey barky, you can have the appeasement dog, the clownish one, or you can have this slow, stiff, sniffy shut down dog.

And depending on how the dog reacts, that's gonna elicit different emotions in us. So it can elicit disappointment, frustration, anger, shame, embarrassment, hopelessness, and, and all the other emotions that kind of fall into that category. So that's how it impacts us in terms of like the, the emotional impact on the handler and then that can have other fallout as well.

Melissa Breau: So, you know, part of that I think is because when we get a dog, especially as sports handlers, we kinda have these big hopes and dreams, right? Kind of tied up in what we wanna do with that dog. And then, you know, sometimes there's this level of what the dog can do versus like what we want them to do. And those things just aren't measuring up, right? They're not the same thing. And then, okay, what's it fair to actually ask of this dog if what they're showing me isn't what I originally wanted? And how do we meet all those things kind of in the middle, right? So do you have kinda thoughts on that kinda tied into this? Like how do we kind of balance out what we'd hoped we would get versus what we have versus what's really kind of fair to ask?

Hélène Lawler: Right. And I have lots of thoughts on that. Imagine that, right? So when we get, you know, specifically for dog sports, but I think generally speaking, whatever, wherever you get a dog, you have a specific idea in mind. We get a dog, whether it's a pet or a, you know, a sport companion or a working dog. We have this vision of like, this is what, what things are gonna look like, this is what we're gonna be doing with our dog. Usually that vision is fun and happy and full of love and light and unicorns and rainbows,
right? And right. Although when we've been around the block a few times, maybe, maybe we don't have quite so many unicorns and rainbows, but we're always, you know, you go into this hopeful and, but the the thing is, is like these dogs are living, breathing beings that come to us with their own, their like their own stuff as well.

And also you can look at it, I like to look at it as like they have their own purpose and their own goals and dreams as well. Like, you know, it's different. But, and you know, I'll give you an example. I remember having, I got, I bought this little Border Collie puppy to be a competition herding dog, and she was afraid of sheep. Like that was just not gonna be her thing. And I tried and tried and tried to get her to love working sheep and I managed to make progress, but we, like, I got her to the trial field and I just remember thinking we, we trialed once. I was like, thank you, you're retired.

Like, I could just tell how much she was just doing it for me and not not really enjoying what was going on. And so, so that happens probably more often than we care to admit that happens. Exactly, exactly. So Denise said in a post that she shared recently is on Instagram and then I think in the, in the Facebook group that I, and I just love what she, a quote that she said was, "our job is to bring out the best in our dog, not to turn them into something we want." And I think that if we can think about that as a guideline, I think that really gives us some good parameters. And, and then I'm gonna share some more about how I work with that.

So that's kind of a starting point for me. So I like to build on that by saying our job. So our job is to bring out the best in our dog, but our job's also to separate our goal for what our dog can do for us. We need to separate our feelings from our dog's feelings and we need to separate our thoughts about ourselves from our thoughts about our dogs.

Melissa Breau: So let me unpack that a little bit.

Hélène Lawler: Yes.
Melissa Breau: So when I say we wanna separate our goals from what our dogs can do for our separate, our goals from what our dogs can do for us. So what does that mean? So we go into this going, I have this goal, I have this dream, right?
Hélène Lawler: So I'll share mine. Like I have this dream of competing at the national level, sheep dog trials, and that's something that I wanna work on. And then I get this little puppy and if I, I'm like, okay, you gotta do this for me, then that puts an awful lot of pressure and weight on this little puppy. And then when she can't do that, then that causes stress and pressure. Maybe she can't handle the, you know, that's just not her thing, right? Like as I just shared, she was afraid of sheep and I'm like, no, you have to go work sheep. If I can separate my goal from what my dog can do for me, if I can be like, I wanna achieve this goal, it may or may not be with this dog, I have a lot of learning to get there. This dog is gonna give me the learning that she has to offer. It might not be what I sign up for, it might not be what I'm expecting, but if I stay open to what I can learn from this dog as I move towards that goal, then I, I'm gonna take a lot of pressure off both of us. Another thing to consider is like, we often get into, we have, we wanna really get honest about our why or why for why we set our goals. So for instance, if you want to get a dog for social reasons, right? Maybe like right now, I've gotten recently back into in-person classes after not going for a couple years and I'm really loving it and it's super fun and my puppy is not doing very well in the environment. And so I was like, oh, I really wanna do this because I'm really enjoying the social part, but I can see that things are falling apart with my puppy.

You know, she's leaving me, she's doing victory laps. I got some arousal stuff. I'm like, this is not quite working for us right now. I know how to fix this. I'm, I've got the training skills to fix this. Part of that is I gotta take her out of class and spend some time. We just lumped–we jumped too far ahead. I've put her in over her head, I gotta step back and do some things, but I want the social, right. So there's that, there's that. My goal right now for in-person classes is, because I'm craving social contact. So what I wanna do there is understand that about myself and go, okay, I am craving social contact. How can I get that without my dog or in a different context? So what did I do? I have a friend who goes hiking with her dog. I'm like, Hey, let's go hiking with our dogs. My puppy's all in on that. She's great. She can do that. Maybe I can go and volunteer at and help my agility coach run other classes so I have the interaction and not the dog.

Right? So things like that. So understanding. So we wanna look at what, what is our why for the reason that we brought our dog into our life or that we're engaging in the sport. Another thing we wanna pay attention to is like, am I, am I doing, do I have this goal because I wanna, I wanna prove my worth to the world.

That can be a little bit uncomfortable to dig into, but that can also be a driving force. It's like, you know what I need to prove to people that I am capable, I need to prove to people that I am good at something. And that's so a lot of pressure on our dog because all of a sudden it's like my dog has to behave in a certain way for me to feel like other people think that I'm worthy.

And when we get into that kind of interaction with our dogs, with that dynamic, we can put a lot of pressure on our dogs without realizing it. And a lot of times these big feelings that our dogs have are, can be a reflection of the pressure they're under from our training. So the first thing we wanna do is we wanna clean that up.

We wanna separate that out and recognize like, hey, I have, you know, like I said, it might be I have social needs. It might be that I need an exercise partner. It might mean like I need to feel better about myself. And then you go, how can I meet those needs without it having to come from my dog?

And we find ways to do that. And then once you have that kind of piece figured out, then you take the pressure off what the dog has to do. And then we can be like, okay, you know what? My dog is struggling right now and I can help her without it being so upsetting to me because of the loss that comes with it.

That's a really big important piece of the puzzle to figure out. It's a really Big answer to the question.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. But it's an important answer, right? Like, kind of digging into that. Okay. So if the answer is partially like to dig into the why and to look at those pieces, you kind of mentioned that some of the things that people are feeling, you know, disappointment and maybe some grief around not kind of getting what they had hoped to get out of this situation. Do you have tips kinda dealing with those feelings or kind of being okay with those feelings or, you know, kind of getting to a better place around some of that stuff?

Hélène Lawler: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So that's, that's really, really important work because like I said, we go into, you know, we go into this relationship, we have all these hopes, we have all these expectations, and then we have these dogs that just can't function the way we're hoping. Or, and, and sometimes they eventually do, right? Sometimes it's just like, like with my puppy, I know she's gonna be fine, I just need to take the pressure off right now for a little while. I need to let her grow up. I need to help her with some things. And I expect, you know, six months from now, we could probably go back to class, maybe two months from now. I don't know, right? So, but I, but it's really important to take that, to be comfortable taking that step back. So how do we, how do we deal with this?

Well first, I kind of break it down into a multi-step process. So step one is just to, is it's really important to acknowledge the grief and the disappointment and be like, this is not what I signed up for and I am disappointed, I'm frustrated, I'm sad, I'm angry, and I'm allowed to have those feelings. They're okay. And I think that's something that a lot of us don't allow ourselves to have, right? We, like, we feel bad. It's like, oh, I, you have the feeling and then you like beat yourself up for having the feeling, right? And I think it's something, one of the things I've noticed in the positive reinforcement world, which is fantastic but also can be problematic, is that we have moved away from blaming our dogs when things don't go right. But we've then tended to turn around and heap it all on ourselves. And so the important work to do is to just work really hard to get rid of all blame.

It's like the dog is being a dog and I am being a human. My dog has big feelings about the environment, which triggers some behaviors that are challenging. That does not mean I'm a bad person, does not mean I'm a bad trainer. It does not mean that all my hopes and dreams are ruined. Just means my dog is having some behaviors and I'm having some feelings.

And then we wanna separate those two out. And then it's like, okay, the first step is like, let me just have those feelings. Let me just feel the feels. Cuz when we, what we resist persists. So when you're like, you shove it down, it just like gets bottled up and then, and then, and then we both, at both ends of the leash become more and more reactive to what's going on. So we wanna allow the feelings, release the feelings, acknowledge the feelings, and, and tell ourself like be very okay with having them. So that's step one, give yourself permission and give yourself a hug.

Step two is understanding where those feelings come from, right? So I've talked a little bit about that already. We understand like, we have these, these dreams, they're dashed right now. We're making, we're making, we're, we have big thoughts about what this, what the dog's behavior is meaning. And I wanna just, I'll just a little, a little tangent that is not really a tangent because I think this is super important to understand. And that is that, and this is something I've, I've learned recently, but the emotion of shame is actually a biological reaction to that. We, that is, it's a safety mechanism for social cohesion. So we don't want…shame feels so terrible, we do whatever we can to avoid the feeling of shame because that's how we're like biologically designed to not do things that get us thrown out of our in-group.

We don't wanna get kicked out of the cave, right? Because that's not, that's like once upon a time that was like, that'd be the end if you got kicked out of the cave. So we're programmed to not wanna do things that create a rift between ourselves and our in-crowd. And the biological response to anything that creates that rift is a feeling of shame.

So if you're walking around with a dog and the dog, you go to a trial, let's say, and your dog starts, you know, lungey, barky, having big feelings at other people, or your dog just shuts down and won't engage. Then you, we have, we'll have the thought, oh, now I can't participate. These are like, this is my thing, these are my people, this is my in-crowd and now I can't be part of it. And that's gonna trigger a feeling of shame, which feels terrible. And then we tend to heap other emotions on to avoid. Cuz shame feels so awful. It's easier to feel anger or frustration or sadness.

So understanding that, and it was a little complicated, a little deep, but when, if you can, if you can look at it as like, oh, I'm having a biological response that's normal and natural to what's going on, of course I feel this way because my dog's behavior is causing me to have to separate from the social situation that I wanna be in.

And that's normal and it's okay. And then you can be like, okay, now I'm gonna walk myself through this and be like, maybe that's where finding other ways it's like, okay, I really wanna be part of this crowd. Maybe right now I train at home and I volunteer and if my brain tells me that's not good enough, then I just have a little bit of work to do and some journaling to let go of that thought cuz it's not helpful.

So the step three is to rewrite the story we're telling about ourselves or telling ourselves about it, right? So it's like, I have this vision, I gotta take my dog, we're gonna go to class, we're gonna, you know, we're gonna get these skills and we're gonna go to trials. And then that doesn't happen. I can rewrite, I can, I can tell myself a story of disappointment and frustration and anger or I can tell myself a story of, Hey, I'm, we're taking a different path. I'm not sure where this is taking us, but this is the journey that I'm on with this dog.

And if it's taking me away from what I think I wanna be doing, maybe I can find other ways to achieve that and then be open and curious about the journey this dog is taking me on. So that allows you to, again, us, to kind of take the good out of what's happening. Ask myself, you know, like, after you've processed, this is terrible, I feel awful. I'm like sad, I'm disappointed, I'm frustrated. Okay, breathe okay, it's okay. Of course I feel that way because of everything that I just had experienced–that's normal and natural. Now let's pull out some good here. Let's rewrite this story in a way that leaves me feeling more empowered. Not in a way that lies to yourself or that tries to make everything rainbows and daisies, but just a way to take your power back and feel a little bit like, okay, I'm gonna learn some really important things here. I'm gonna meet my needs in new and different ways that don't involve my dog. So that allows you to uncouple your own hopes and expectations and emotions from what your dog is doing. This is not easy.

This takes work and it takes practice, right? It's not something that the occasional person will just go, oh, got it and be fine. But for most of us it takes a while to get here, right? And then the fifth step is to then ask yourself, how do I wanna feel about my life with my dog? And therefore what do I need to think to feel that way? And then practice those thoughts.

Melissa Breau: So can you run me through the steps again really quickly? Like at a 1, 2, 3, 4, whatever.

Hélène Lawler: Yes. Step one, acknowledge your feelings, give yourself permission to have them and a hug, step two, study and understand where these feelings are coming from. Like understand kind of like the biology behind it. The actual like neurological programming. So you, that gives you a little separation so you can just sort of see it for what it is as opposed to something uniquely wrong with you. Right? Step three is rewrite the story you're telling about your life with your dog to find the good, we do this intentionally. Step four is to do that uncoupling work.

And step five is ask yourself how do you wanna feel about your dog and your life with your dog? Identify the feeling, what do you, what would you have to think to feel that way? And then practice thinking, thinking those thoughts. Excellent. Good stuff. Okay, so I feel like you've gotten like some big stuff here, right?

So I think a lot of people are like, okay, that's great but I only have so much energy in my life, right? And right now I have energy's going to making my dog feel better, Right?

Melissa Breau: Yes, yes. Right.

Hélène Lawler: Can we just put like a little bit of a pause in there and like, can we talk about why it's so important that you take the time for the handler to figure out this stuff so that they can better handle the dog stuff, you know, kind of that right?

Melissa Breau: Yeah, exactly.

Hélène Lawler: So, like you said, the most people that I've worked with are putting all their energy into trying to make their dog feel better. And as I said earlier, when we don't address how we feel, then first of all it's, it makes it a lot harder to help our dogs,


Melissa Breau: Right.

Hélène Lawler: So we need to put our oxygen mask on first. I just really like that analogy and if you can be–if we can stay grounded and calm and separate and not add our big feelings–and by this, I wanna make sure that I'm clear that I'm not saying that the handler feelings are causing the dog feelings.

Sometimes that is true. Often it is not. Dogs are actually beings of their own and they have their own feelings, right? So what we wanna do is separate the two, right? So I wanna separate my feelings from my dog's feelings so that I can help my dog. And a big piece of that, most of that is what I just talked about is just stepping back from what's going on and working on yourself.

And that can mean just taking a break from training or classes, from the environment, things that trigger your dog. But what happens in the moment, like you've just had like this, some quick, some quick like how do I fix this like today cuz I'm exhausted, right? And so the first thing to do there is just breathe and get grounded.

So one of the first things I teach for any, any training that I do, like even just in herding, cuz a lot of people get themselves because you're, you go out, you go out with a, with a dog and there are sheep and there are, there are feelings, there are lots of feelings, right? There's lots of behavior and lots of feelings.

Melissa Breau: No…

Hélène Lawler: Right?

Melissa Breau: Yeah.

Hélène Lawler: So the very first thing I teach anybody who works with me who wants to do stock work with their dog is how to stand quietly, take a deep breath, drop your energy into your feet and practice that. So one of the challenges a lot of people encounter is they're so focused on the dog, they're so focused on the dog that they don't manage themselves and they only kind of like, it's only like in the aftermath that you're like, oh crap, like what just happened? And how do I fix this? And breathing is really important and just sort of taking, you know a step back from everything. So remove physically if you, if you've got nothing in place physically remove yourself from the situation yourself and your dog.

Just like get distance. If that means go to your car, if that means leave the event, if that means just go for a walk, all those like just get some distance. So that's the best, like the best. No-go. Like a quick to go strategy, just do it, get the distance. But a lot of this other stuff, like it really takes practice. It's like you ha–it's like you have to go to the gym for your brain and for your your nervous system. As much as we spend most of our time training our dogs when 80% of what goes on happens at our end of the leash and we don't put nearly enough time into that. And so it's hard to say like, here's a quick fix because it's rarely a quick fix. So distance and take a breath and ground yourself will help give you a little bit of stability so that you can then get your dog back in a crate or reorient and get your, get yourself calm enough that you can keep going depending on what happened, right? But it's important to practice this like away from your dog, away from classes, away from events and, and just start developing a skillset as its own skillset and then you start to bring it into your dog training. So I don't think that's the quick simple answer you're looking for, but I don't have a quick simple answer for this work. It's not easy.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. Yeah. So you kind of mentioned putting your own oxygen mask on first there, so you've got a webinar and that just happens to be part of the title of the webinar.

Hélène Lawler: Yes, yes I do.

Melissa Breau: Exactly. So coming up on January 12th, do you wanna just talk a little bit about what pieces of this are going into that webinar and then maybe who should think about joining us?

Hélène Lawler: Sure. So this webinar emerged from a discussion that came up in one of my classes in the fall where I had a number of students who had dogs with big feelings and we were, we were like, Hey, you know, you can, you can take care of yourself first. And that was sort of a, it came as a surprise not so much that they more that like they hadn't even realized that they were not taking care of themselves cuz of all like, we're so programmed to be like, let's take care of our dogs, let's take care of our dogs. And I'm like, you know what? Sometimes it's okay for your dog to be a little worked up and a little upset if it means that you get a break as long as everybody's safe, right? We're not, we're not talking dangerous dogs here, we're just talking about emotion, big feelings. So the more we talked about it, I was like, this is something that we really need to dig into. And so I decided to create this webinar to talk specifically about this issue, about how to train ourselves. Cuz this is work I have done extensively over the years. I have, I have done a lot of work on this. Like I got like 12 years of working this through and practicing it and studying it and figuring it out and coaching it and teaching it.

And because it's such a, it's so, so important. And if we wanna be successful in dog sports, learning how to manage our own emotions around our dog's, emotions is a critical skill. So who is this for? This is for anybody who feels that they're not having the, the emotions they want around their dog sports, right? So you might be getting the results you want, however you're feeling crappy about it. You might have a dog who's having a lot of emotions and it's really stressing you out. So learning the emotional management at the handler and of the leash is, as I said, a critical skill. So if you feel like that's something that is gonna really help you move forward with your progress, then that this is who this is for. If you're exhausted trying to manage your dog, this is who, who I'm creating this for. So I want this webinar to be a support resource for anybody who needs this kind of support. Anybody who wants to feel better about working with your dog in dog sports or even in general, I mean, I'm just gonna be dog sport focused obviously, but, you know, learn how to feel better, feel good, feel happy. That can take a little while, right? Sometimes, right, right. Our first name is just to get to neutral, then we go from there. But just getting out of that like spiral, the shame spiral, the anxiety, the frustration that blocks us from moving forward with our dogs.

That's what I'm going to work teaching. And what we'll do is we'll go through those five steps in much more detail and with slides so that I can describe it a little bit more and, and then some specific exercises that you can do along the way to build that practice. So you'll leave the webinar with a clearer understanding of those steps of how you know your nervous system is responding in these situations and some practical exercises to do to help yourself stay in a more neutral and balanced emotional state so that then you are in a better position to help your dog. And sometimes that will actually be all that's necessary and sometimes it's not, but it just gives you a really grounded place to be able to move forward and keep moving forward with your dog towards what you wanna achieve.

Melissa Breau: So you can be your best self so you can help your dog be their best self.

Hélène Lawler: Exactly. Exactly. Thank you. That was very succinctly put. Help you become your best self so that you can be your, help your dog become their best self.

Melissa Breau: Yeah. So not to summarize it for you, but I do wanna kinda give you just a second until I kinda round out cause we've covered a lot of ground and talked a lot about different pieces, you know, kind of one final thought or like the piece of information you kind of want people to walk away with, like that last little kind of drill down condensed bit that you want people to be thinking about kind of as they move on with their day and move on with their week after listening to the podcast.

Hélène Lawler: Okay, so this, this may be, let's see, how do I put it succinctly? Okay.

Melissa Breau: That's the hard part, right?

Hélène Lawler: I know, right? None of this is succinct. Very simply put, but not easily achieved is to understand that how you feel about your dog's reactions, your dog's big feelings does not come from your dog's big feelings and your dog's behavior. It comes from what you make it mean.

So it's what you think about what the dog is doing that creates your feelings and that can feel really heavy and really exhausting. And that's what I wanna help you let go of is that heavy exhausting. And so understanding that it's your thoughts about what the dog is doing, what the meaning that you're attaching to what the dog is doing and not what the dog is doing, is what creates the pain and suffering. And when we can understand that at a deep internalized level, it releases the pain. You can just, then we can just, then we can work with it from a place of neutrality and then you can make good decisions around your training, around where you, how you wanna move forward, around what you wanna keep pushing on to try and make happen and where you wanna step back.

You can make that from an unemotional place, a place of neutrality. But we really have to separate our thoughts about what our dogs are doing from what the dog is doing in order to make that happen.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Big stuff, heavy conversation but hopefully good for everybody listening at home. So thank you so much for coming on to talk about all this.

Hélène Lawler: Well thank you for having me and super fun to be back on the podcast and I hope, I hope that what I'm sharing is helpful and I really look forward to teaching this webinar. I think it's gonna be a lot of fun.

Melissa Breau: Awesome. Thank you also to all of our listeners for tuning in. We'll be back next week. Don't miss it. If you haven't already, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or the podcast app of your choice to have our next episode automatically downloaded to your phone as soon as it becomes available. Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty free by bensound.com. The track featured here is called Buddy. Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in and happy training.


 Today's show is brought to you by the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Special thanks to Denise Fenzi for supporting this podcast. Music provided royalty-free by BenSound.com; the track featured here is called "Buddy." Audio editing provided by Chris Lang.

Thanks again for tuning in -- and happy training! 

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