Old Dog, New Tricks

I have a dog called Woo. Her full name is Jah Woo Wodger. Woo looks like a collie, smells like a collie and has behaved like a collie for the past 9 years of her life apart from one aspect. She has steadfastly refused to swim. Now I think all collies can actually swim, they do it rather well. Swimming’s good for them especially when it’s hot.

In the past I have rather randomly attempted to teach woo to swim by throwing sticks into bodies of water. The ocean waves she will run from and the pools she will only go up to her chest. At the point her feet will leave the ground then no further. So on a recent walk I came upon a ‘dew pond’ and they have a wonderful advantage in that they are designed to water live stock – they very gently gradient into depth. Now like all collies she loves to fetch and return. So I began throwing a stick into the edge of the water, carefully gauging so that it went a little further each time. Not pushing it just setting up the pattern engaging her interest and natural enthusiasm. Me offering words of encouragement, rewarding her for her efforts.

Yet again on the initial occasion the stick went beyond her reach and she would go no further. A fair amount of standing at the edge barking at the offending stick then ensued (woo that is).

On returning to the pool yesterday training resumed. Woo was as enthusiastic as ever, so I am carefully throwing the stick in curtailing my impulse to go to far. We reach the same point as before where the stick has gone beyond her range, she returns to bank and does some barking. I’m not inclined to persevere more today and start moving of.

After a few step I turn round to see if she is following and too my delight she is back in the pond and yes, swimming out to the stick bringing back to land and dropping at my feet. Another 20 minutes like this and now we have a dog that either remembered she could swim or forgot that she thought she couldn’t. She had broken a self imposed limitation increase her adaptability and had enlarged her area of enjoyment.

Good therapy or coaching is like this – It is about recognising self limitation, taking responsibility for change and setting out to live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

Woof woof

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