Our Shaped by Dog podcast is designed to be heard or viewed. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio or watch the video, as each includes nuances of emotion and emphasis that might not come through on the written word. Transcripts are generated from the audio, then humans review with love and care, and then there's a double check by our dogs. If you are quoting in print, please check the audio first for full context. Thank you!
SG Susan Garrett
SG If at any time in your life you actually spent time as a child there's a very good chance that you have
been hurt by words. And it's not just the meaning but it's the energy of the words. And today we're
going to jump in to look at what that means for our dogs. Hi, I'm Susan Garrett and welcome to Shaped
Before we begin, it's been a while since I've read a letter out loud, and I want to share with you a
comment that was left on one of my Facebook lives that I've done. And that's actually the topic of
today's conversation. I did 14 Facebook lives in a row over consecutive days where I focused on one
Now this is a comment that came in from Yumi Nagaoka. My Japanese isn't great so bear with me.
Yumi writes “Inspiring as always. The dog training in my country seems 20 to 30 years behind. Even
when my dog was a small puppy, I gave him a lot of corrections. At the end of July of this year, I started
Home School The Dog and the world has changed for me and my dog forever. I'm grateful for Susan
and the team, but also grateful for my dog who showed me grace to start over our life together.”
How beautiful is that? And that's the amazing forgiveness of dogs. And so back to the meaning and the
energy of words. Now, you may have heard people say before that words have this vibrational energy.
So, play this game with me if you can.
Now if you're driving don't close your eyes. So, I would like you to close your eyes and repeat out loud
each word I say and see how that feels in your body. Maybe you won't feel anything. But if you just sit
with each word for a moment, what kind of feeling does each word conjure? So, I'm going to give you
pairs of words. I'm going to start with easy ones.
I'm going to say the word love. What kind of energy does that give you? What about hate. So, I'm
saying them in the same tone and the same cadence, but for me, one of those words because of the
meaning that we've been associating with it potentially has a different energy in my body.
What about the word soft compared to the word hard? One definitely has a different feeling than the
other. So, words they have this energy, even things like the word training compared to the word
teaching. To me the word teaching has a lighter energy for me.
And so, when you think about the words, for me, the words that I shared over the last couple of weeks
on these lives I did on social media, I did them on Facebook and YouTube. If you miss them, you can
find them on YouTube.
Each day I gave a live presentation, and they were from 20 minutes to 45 minutes long, on that word
and the impact it has on me in my dog training or in my teaching of other people. So here are the 15
words. Mindfulness, Inspire, Happiness, Connection, Joy, Empathy & Humility, Belief,
Confidence, Kindness, Gratitude, Empower, Love, Grace, and Vision.
Now for me, all of those words have such amazing energy, such a positive energy. I think if you would
just rehearse, repeat that list every day when you’ve started your day like you are going to start your
day on a solidly good foot, right?
And so, you can't just say, “Oh, here's my 15 words. This is going to make me an amazing dog trainer.”
because of course dog training is about human mechanics. It's about timing and criteria and
reinforcement. It's about the ability to manipulate environment and have a really solid plan before you
begin. It's about data and recordkeeping. Those things would be the paint colors of dog training.
And those 15 words that I just said, those are the canvas that we're making this amazing connection
with our dogs. Now think of these words. And I honestly don’t know a lot of words. I started my dog
training career in the eighties in a completely different space and a different focus than I do today with
But think of these words, if somebody was teaching you or coaching you on dog training and they were
saying things to you like mindfulness and joy and empathy and belief and humility, and then these
other words would be dominate, pressure, firm, correct, alpha. So, they're completely different ways of
going about training dogs.
Now, please don't throw hate on me. I'm not saying that somebody who trains dogs differently than us
can't have compassion. I'm just saying that they have a different dialogue when they're teaching
people. They have a different dialogue because they have a different outlook towards dogs. Now
remember, as I always say, positive is not permissive. You know, it's really good to set amazing
intention. It's really good to have these great vibes when you're about to undertake dog training.
But at the end of the day, it's about human mechanics, about your timing, it's about your criteria, it's
about your reinforcement. It's about the way you set up the environment for success for your dog. It's
about having that solid plan and any of you who are in our online programs you know we give you
those plans. So, I'm not saying that you could you know, wish upon a star and be a great dog trainer.
And I have a history of a lot of success in a lot of dog training sports.
I've competed at the elite level of obedience, and I've set world records in flyball and won world
championships in the sport of dog agility. But first and foremost, my focus has always been about
having an amazing dog. And wherever you are at in your dog training, you might be thinking, and I've
heard this before, “Okay, Susan, I'm going to train your way for tricks. Oh, I can be super kind and
super compassionate when I'm training tricks.”
“But the things I want my dog to do for real Susan, I got to change things up a little bit. I got to, I got to
light a fire under their butt.” And I've posted videos of my dogs out in the field. They do what I ask them
to do without me raising my voice when I ask them one time. I can give them cues to do many different
behaviors with one cue.
So, I would put my dog's abilities up against any other dog trainers’ abilities. And then they'll say things
“Well yeah, but what if you had a reactive dog in a big crowd of dogs this methodology wouldn’t work
there.” And there's two things I say about that, because that's kind of a common thing people throw
back at us.
Number one, that is not the majority of the dogs in this world. That definitely exists, but that is not the
majority. Number two, if I was dealing with a dog that had that much reactivity, there is no way I would
ask that dog to do that in a crowded area with other dogs. The anguish that dog would feel, the fear
that they would have to lash out like that. That wouldn't be where I would be training the dog.
So, it's just a different way of going about dog training and chances are if you're listening to this
program that you are at least partially in with the way that I talk about the energy of dog training. But it
could be, “Oh Susan, but I do high level ‘this’ sport and so I need precision.” I can get you that
precision. It's there. Just because somebody hasn't come up with a way doesn't mean that way doesn't
exist. I believe we are just so early on on what we are about to discover in the world of reinforcement
based and kindness-based dog training.
We are just on the cusp because the vast majority of the world doesn't train this way. Because they're
afraid ‘what if it didn't work?’ Well, here's the thing. When you're thinking of change, you can always go
back to what you knew yesterday. But you're never going to know what something different will give
you unless you're willing to change. There’s this great poem I want to share with you. It's just a couple
of lines from Eric Hanson.
I love, love, love this poem. And this might just be a part of a passage of it. It might even be a book. But
here it goes. It says, ‘There was freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky.’ And I believe this is
a metaphor for our dogs in our lives.
‘There is freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky. And you ask, “What if I fail?” But oh
darling, what if you fly?’
And that's what I say to people who say, “Hmm I don't know about that. I need my dog to be reliable.
Reliably come when they're called, when I call them.”
I have that reliability. Why can't you? You can't if you can't trust that you can and approach it as a dog
training challenge I'm going to overcome. And I mean, people say, “Well, it takes so much longer.” I
disagree with that as well.
Because I believe the time that you spend managing or correcting a dog for their lifetime or however
many years that your dog doesn't listen, it takes very little time to create what I've got with my dogs. So,
my dogs will have their behaviors by the time they're six months old.
And maybe I will tweak them so they, I want that recall no matter what. No matter if I send the other
dogs running this way and you're running with them and I call you back, and you alone, you've got to
leave the other dogs and come with me.
So that's the kind of reliability that I want. So back to my words, as I said I have 10 other words and
maybe I will do some other live but I'm going to share with you a couple of them. And let's just share
one today because I don't want this to go too long. I really want you to absorb in the thought of energy.
And so, one of the words that I tried to squeak in, I already did a double word, I couldn't put more
words in, is a word that's really important to me. And it's that word Alignment.
I often interchange it with the word ‘congruency’ that for me I love the alignment of my life and it's been
intentional. And it's been hard because guess what, I was one of those trainers that if my dog did some
“Hey!” I would snap my fingers and point them, and I would blame, and I would get on them and shame
and “You better know! What did you?!”
Back in the eighties that was what I was taught. And so, alignment for me is knowing the kind of person
I want to be in this world. Who I want to show up as to the people I care about? To my family, to my
friends, to the people who work here at the DogsThat team. I want to show up as a person that's fair
and kind and compassionate and genuine and fun. That's who I want to show up as.
And so, if I train my dog as somebody who was looking to find something you did wrong and correct
you for it, “That's not what I told you to do. No, that's not how I taught ya. You better learn what I taught
ya.” That there's a misalignment. Did you ever drive a car that was out of alignment? It doesn't go so
So, alignment to me is something we seek to get to. I am not perfect. And I will say to my dogs when
I'm busy and they are like, “Ah, it's a walk o’clock, it’s walk o’clock.” “You guys go lay down.” Like there
are times and I will go when I review my day, I always go ‘here's where I could have done better’. ‘You
know what, I could have just given them something to do because it was walk o'clock.’
So that goes along with the rest of the words. So, when we do, we do seek to have alignment in our life
every day. And when it doesn't work out for us, because we're human, we give ourselves grace.
Because just like Yumi said, “our dogs are always willing to give us grace”.
And so, I hope you understand this. I hope this isn't to ‘woo’. Please leave me a comment. Write into us
at [email protected].
Go over to YouTube and watch this on YouTube and leave me a comment there. Does this make
sense to you? Is this something that you think about? Is this something that you can take hold of and
understand that the energy of the words create the environment to which your training happens in.
Because training doesn't happen in a vacuum. Training happens with an intentional environment that
we set up and that environment is set up through the words like mindfulness and happiness and joy
and grace and belief and confidence. And, you get what I'm saying.
I'll see you next time here on Shaped by Dog.