Influence, Control, and How My Dog is Like a Kite

For those of you who don’t know, when I’m not at the dayjob, spending time with family & friends, or doing something dog-related, I write. (If you’re interested in knowing more about that, please visit my author site and, if you’re extra crazy, sign up for my Guaranteed No Spam newsletter.) Because I write, I read quite a few author blogs. One of those I frequent is terribleminds, the home of Chuck Wendig who, according to his intro:

“…is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And pop culture. And his kid. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.”

In any case, Chuck recently wrote a post entitled Control What You Can Control: Good Writing (And Life) Advice that struck a chord with me (as his posts frequently do).

Like me, Chuck is somewhat of a self-proclaimed control freak, which is actually a difficult thing to be due to the fact there is just so much we control freaks cannot control, even if we like to claim otherwise. What helped Chuck was a bit of advice he was kind enough to share:

Know the difference between influence and control.
Then, influence what you can influence.
And control what you can control.
The end. Game over. That’s it.

It was one of those duh moments for me because even though I like to think I control my dogs whether they’re doing chores, trialing, or just being good dogs around the house, the truth is… I don’t. That doesn’t mean they’re ill-mannered brutes, but let’s face it, at any given moment they can choose to do something completely random. They have. Repeatedly. Occasionally at the most inopportune moment. Quite frankly, I can’t control that. If you take a look back at some of my posts, you’ll see what happens when I make the attempt. My handling and trialing suffer. My relationship with Jig suffers. We don’t have fun.

Know the difference between influence and control.

109759-sparky-dog-easy-flyer-kiteChuck likens it to a kite:

I go to the kite metaphor, because when you’re flying a kite, you don’t control a fucking thing, and yet, the illusion is that you remain in control, right? You’re the KITEMASTER with the spool and the string and you feel like that gives you an element of control, but it doesn’t.

Ultimately, we have to accept that our dogs, sentient beings that they are (and most often too smart for their own good) control themselves. What we do during training is merely influence their behavior in such a way that, hopefully, it will have a positive impact on just how they control themselves.

Influence what you can influence.
And control what you can control.

Which brings me to trialing and my journey to stop handling like an incompetent, sometimes erratic, foaming at the mouth, idiot.

Walking through that gate into the trial arena I can control one thing, and one thing only.

I can’t control my dog.

I can’t control the stock.

All I can really, truly control, is me: my thoughts, my attitude, my posture, and my mouth (although that last one is debatable at times).

Of course, I want to argue that fact. I want to pound my fist and assert that I MOST CERTAINLY DO CONTROL MY DOG. To accept anything else is equal parts humbling and terrifying.

It is also oddly liberating.

I can control myself. Sometimes more successfully than others, but the possibility exists.

I can only influence my dog and she, in turn, can influence the stock.

If I’ve done things right, my influence will pay off. If not, we go back and work on firming it up.

The Coyote Classic is just around the corner. I’m going to work on controlling that which I can and try to remember that even the Kitemaster can’t control the wind.


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