The other you is controlling your dogs behaviour and responses.
Those naughty behaviours they’re doing, are a result of your actions and input into their lives.
That’s not to pass any form of blame, but it’s a big part to do with awareness you will come to realise after reading this blog.
There is more to being human than consciousness
We all like to think that we know ourselves very well, and we tend to think our behaviour and actions are something that we are in control of.
Sorry, but we’re actually a lot further away from the truth when we say things like, “I have full control over my actions”.
You may be surprised to hear that most of us have very little control on our actions at all and we are driven to do what we do, from elsewhere in our minds.
Have you ever been driving and suddenly thought ‘Shit, how did I get here?’ or perhaps you’ve put the coffee pot into the fridge, and the milk into the cupboard without even realising, until you go to make another brew and say ‘‘How did this get in here??!”
Yep, me too. It used to scare me when I’d have driven for miles on the road, and couldn’t recall that part of the journey when my brain sprung back into action.
Not all actions are results of our conscious decisions. Most of our actions are results of “Mental Reflex Actions” which are controlled by our subconscious mind, and on which we have little control.
So far, there seems to be no reliable way to distinguish between conscious and subconscious thought processes. If you don’t know what they are, then I’m going to explain more of the meaning of subconscious mind, and some of the things that can go on in our subconscious mind, to detail more about how our entire life is based on a sort of rule book that most people aren’t even aware of. And more importantly, how this could be impacting your dog training, holding you back from the real results you could be getting.
Every moment, our mind is busy analysing and making split-second decisions. What you are doing now is a result of your decision to do so.
I wanted to look into understanding the subconscious mind a bit more for you, and how it impacts your behavior so you can also better understand yourselves and in turn begin to be more aware of what you’re doing, so you can improve and transfer this to the interactions you are having with your dog.
Because it plays a huge part. Dog’s are very good at picking up subtle cues. So subtle, you think it’s the dog who has the problem. When in fact, we look a little bit closer you’ve prompted that behaviour in them without even realising!
I remember in the old house speaking to Buxton Advertiser about my win at Crufts. They were gathering the information of how I won in the ring with a dog I’d never met before, and one I couldn’t control or keep still not two minutes before going in. We got talking about dog’s reading and acting according to the environment but also human behaviour.
He seemed keen to learn more about it, so I quickly gave him an example. As I’d finished making a brew before taking the call, the spoon learning was high in my mind. Every time I made a cup of coffee back then, Hunter would take himself off into the lounge and go to his bed. It wasn’t until I tested a few things in the chain of the routine that I learned this.
I could ask him to go to bed and he wouldn’t move, choosing instead to sit by the front door in the hope I might just pick up the harness and lead I presume 😉
But when I thought about it, every time I made a cup of coffee, I would then come through into the lounge, head upstairs and not be seen for a couple of hours at least. This was at the time when I was writing my book, 3 Steps to Silence and had Kay and David, my staff members, doing more of the walking than I was needed for.
Hunter had learned that once that spoon went down, he wouldn’t see me for a while afterwards, so had conditioned him to go and lie down on his bed to relax. I hadn’t set out to teach him that! In this new house, he still tries to perform the lounge part of the sequence, but now they sleep in the kitchen he doesn’t have to wait for the spoon, it happens when I flick the kettle on.
Back to our minds! So, the subconscious mind.
A good way to understand the subconscious mind is through the story example of an elephant in a circus. You may have noticed that the huge elephants in the circus are tied with a chain to a small stick/stake dug in the ground. The now adult and mighty elephant could easily pull the stake and run away. But it doesn’t do that.
The moment it’s tied to the stake, it remains put. But why?
Well usually when the elephant was small, it was tied with the same chain to the same stake. It would try to run away, but wasn’t strong enough to break free. It pulled and pulled till it pained and its feet bled. It tried again and again, before finally giving up. The thought of blood and fear of pain drove it to believe that it cannot break free when tied to the stake. And the repeated attempts it made to break free only reinforced the belief which slowly it went into the subconscious and automated part of the mind.
The conscious mind is logical and analytical, whereas the subconscious mind appears to be illogical.
The nature of what goes in the subconscious mind and how to know your subconscious mind is questionable but we must sit up and take more notice of what we’re inadvertently doing more to break past it.
Sit up and take notice
Because our brains are constantly monitoring our internal and external environment, such that when the input becomes important enough, the subconscious decides to engage the conscious, and we become aware of what is there.
The normal unconscious brain monitors the environment for cues that prompt it to decide whether to awaken and engage. Just like with the driving I’d do that was clearly automated. The decision to engage at all is, in effect, an unconscious decision to be conscious. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this blog today and would likely have ended up causing a pile up on the motorway because I didn’t see the cars slowing down in front of me and instead I was on a beach in Cuba, re-living my sun, sea and sand stories.
True story. I go there a lot…
I’m ‘conscious’ (see what I did there?) of how long this blog post will be, so I’m going to do it in two parts. Finishing on the components of our mind that control our decision making and behaviour.
First is the Pavlovian controller. Let’s call this the brain’s autopilot. It’s programmed by evolution to perform routine and instinctive behaviours, such as fleeing from danger or popping on the brakes to avoid the multi car pile up back in the land of reality. It primarily works at the subconscious level and is fast and efficient, if inflexible.
The other three control systems combine both conscious and subconscious and they are thought to achieve the best possible outcome depending on the level of uncertainty about the situation, you are in.
The goal-directed controller corresponds most closely to popular notions of “rational thought”. It allows you to optimise your choices by evaluating all the available information. When information is scarce, however, in unfamiliar situations or in the very early stages of learning, another system, ‘The episodic controller’ takes charge.
So, instead of making complex calculations, it simply recommends adopting behaviours that have proved successful in similar situations
in the past. Both of these rely heavily on conscious reasoning, and require you to focus on the problem at hand.
You know what it’s like don’t you, when you see another dog coming that’s used to make your dog explode in barking pandemonium, you automatically tighten the grip on your lead, and braise for impact. Pulling them away without giving them an opportunity to make a choice you’ve been working so hard to train them to do… but don’t give them the opportunity to make that decision you KNOW they can do.
Your mind took over and directed your hand to tighten, your body movements and emotion to change without you even realising it.
Let’s leave it there for today as it’s turning into an assignment.
You can find out more about the impacts this can have on your progress, in the part two to this blog.
For today, just be aware of what is prompting your dog to react. The spoon, or the actions you take and make in those moments. The feelings and emotions that come up for you in those moments.
Will be impacting your progress on your dog’s training…
See you in the next one,