This was originally written in a note for the Facebook page, Pagans/Witches in Spokane, WA. I moved it over here and updated it a little bit.
On March 7, 2015 my American Foxhound puppy, Toby, turned 1 yr old. He was (and still is) my first puppy. It’s embarrassing to admit now but when I got him I felt some kind of arrogance about dog training and that I knew enough from the experiences of my friends and family that I could figure it out. I especially smirked at the idea of learning how to create a spiritual connection, citing my collection of books on Familiars (like Raven Grimassi’s for example) and thinking, once again, I could figure it out.
7 months later (I got Toby when he was 3 months) and I am sick of figuring it out. Having a puppy with the desire of having a loyal companion and one who is part of the family was surprisingly challenging. When I first got him some of my arrogances were reinforced by the easiness with which I housebroke him and taught him basic commands. Despite those things his endless energy, need to chew constantly, destruction of my house, and weakening of commands brought me to the South Hill library where I found the book, “A Modern Dog’s Life: How to Do the Best for Your Dog”* by Paul McGreevy, PhD, MRCVS. It’s a book on dog behaviorism and it has helped me out in several ways. The following is inspired by what I have learned.
Elements of Dog Training and How It Relates to Witchcraft
Training: It’s often better to associate your dog’s name with positivity. Saying the dog’s name, receiving a look from your dog, then rewarding your dog is recommended for consistency and association. This is also important to learn for in emergent situations.
Witchcraft: First, awareness of vocal inflection. In ritual, your vocal inflection certainly plays a part in the energy you give words (example: invoking a deity). Is my meaning being conveyed positively through my tone? Also, to bring it closer to the dog training component, saying a name and giving a reward for being acknowledged has a lot of layers. When someone calls your name do you (should you) respond and encourage them? When deity calls you, how do you answer?
Training: Create commands for *everything* and visualize how you would like your dog to respond. Be consistent, say the command once, and reward immediately. Also have a back up plan for when things go wrong and how you will respond without creating bad habits (for you and the dog)*.
Witchcraft: This brings up what my family calls “precision of language,” which is important in spell casting, ritual, and even chanting. In some cases, repeating words of power can build. Other times when you use a word enough times and nothing happens you might need to find a different way to bring your intention to fruition. Consistency is another big one. Again, when you use a word, chant or spell, are you being reinforced? Is the spell “obeying”? Spells can quickly transform (for better/worse) based on inconsistency with your craft or the ritual itself. Also, the visualization and planning never hurt anyone.
Witchcraft: When someone in your life does something you consider morally correct, or positive how often do you remember to reward them? Rewarding dogs happens every day, from the littlest things (looking at your when you say their name/sitting) to “jackpots”* when they do challenging demands and for the reward to be successful it happens immediately after they do it so they are aware of what they did to deserve it. An example of how this can relate to relationships is if a friend has a hard time being honest and is, or brings you coffee, or even just compliments you reinforce them! Thank you is important, naturally but sometimes they need a “jackpot.” Maybe send them a thank you card or even just a more sincere, “Hey, I know that you’re in a tough spot, but still went out of your way to () and I just want you to know that I really appreciate it.” Rewarding them can encourage them to repeat the behavior or you get the satisfaction of being kind and grateful.
Stay Strong and Be Patient and Stay Positive
The biggest thing that I have needed to be reminded of constantly is that patience and a positive attitude go exceptionally long ways for canine companions. They pick up your energy, they store your tone of voice in “voice arenas” in their heads, they can experience some emotions humans can relate to and they need your patience with them if they are going to do what you ask of them. A dog cries in a crate and you respond with yelling/squirting them in the face with water–well, any attention is attention so they will keep doing it. You are reinforcing their behavior. It turns into a vicious cycle. Feeding meals in the crate (with the door open to remove fear), giving new toys to the dog while they are in the crate (with the door closed so they can have something to keep them busy), and then leaving the house for a couple hours makes everyone happy with consistency and only letting them out when they are quiet. Spells are a similar creature. Spells know your voice, they understand your emotions, and if you aren’t clear and precise with your words they can be manipulated into something you didn’t want. Better yet, aligning your spell with the beautiful world around you, the timing, the sky, the season, requesting deity of importance to witness and exchange energy with, all go
Positivity goes such a long way in dog training and so do rewards/reinforcements of behavior. A dog cries in a crate and you respond with yelling/squirting them in the face with water–well, any attention is attention so they will keep doing it. You are reinforcing their behavior. Patience. Baby steps. Be their life coach, introducing them to How to Survive in a Human World. Animals speak different lanuages then us, but still experience so much of the same things.
On the subject of crates: Feed meals in the crate (with the door open to remove fear), give new toys to the dog while they are in the crate (with the door closed so they can have something to keep them busy), and then leaving the house for a couple hours and only let them out when they are quiet. Spells are a similar creature. Spells know your voice, they understand your emotions, and if you aren’t clear and precise with your words they can be manipulated into something you didn’t want. Better yet, aligning your spell with the beautiful world around you, the timing, the sky, the season, requesting deity of importance to witness and exchange energy with, all go a long way to aiding in success.
*This is not a plug for this book. Just stating the facts.
*A term used when a dog follows through a command that they have never done or they have struggled to learn you give them extra treats to reinforce that they did awesome.
*In the dog training classes I have taken it’s always said, “We aren’t here to train dogs. We’re here to train YOU.”
RESOURCES FOR DOG TRAINING CLASSES IN SPOKANE, WA
I tried Heavenly Dog Obedience and was unimpressed.
Spokane Dog Training Club is where I go now, we’re in our second class.
Animal Wellness Connection is an incredible place for grooming your dog and offering your dog holistic services like massage, hydrotherapy, and essentially physical therapy.
Jeanne’s Doggy Daycare is not recommended for grooming but is a suitable place for daycare and boarding.