Waterhole Rituals for Dogs

Kai and Buddha Water in Wheel barrow on hot summer day Ritual!
For those of you who don't know I am a Dog trainer as well as a Horseman. I may if fact have been working with dogs longer then horses.
I always saw the common ground between Horse and Dog Whispering from the beginning. Pack and Herd animals are not that far apart. So I easily applied the Dogmanship to horses and Horsemanship to dogs.

When I learned Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals, I immediately saw how to integrate them into my Dog Whispering approach.

First of all, We naturally Share our Territory with dogs because we share a house with them. With horses we have to go to the barn to Share Territory so it is not as easily done. This is why our Dogs bond to us so quickly.

Saying Hello is similar with dog as well with one exception. I don't put my hands out or my face toward a dog in greeting. I instead, read their body language and if they act like they would like to be approached I come closer. I am more likely to allow them to approach me first so I can see how to shape my Leadership with them(if they are not aggressive acting). Just like I would like a horse to initiate contact first in Sharing territory so I can shape my Leadership with them. If they are overly excited and jumping on me I set about making requests about how I would prefer them to be in my space and then praise them when they behave that way.

Now here's the interesting part which a lot of people don't teach their dogs which is so important in horses as well. In the WHR we learn that if we approach the horse, we should respect his wishes and feelings. And this is how I approach a dog as well, BUT dogs are not often taught this rule. They are allowed to go barreling up to or on anyone they meet and even any dog. This can start fights and can nurture unwanted aggression in dogs. This, to me is condoned and encouraged by a lot of people but I have the same rules with my dogs. If they are in my space they have to listen to my rules. Which means no jumping on me, no biting me (even if it's playful), and no growling or being possessive of territory I don't deem to be theirs. I feel also that is is respectful to always keep my dogs away from anyone and in a calm sit or stay until the person gives me permission to allow my dogs to approach. Sound like another WHR? What if the person is afraid of dogs or has allergies and can't touch them?

Taking territory is a useful exercise for dogs who are toy possessive or furniture possessive. Also if they run to the door of your house and bark you can claim the door area. I use claiming of areas quite often with my dogs.

Eye Contact seems to be important with all and every species. I know that if I can get and keep Eye Contact in my Dogs and horses, I can most likely Communicate with them and they will listen. When I lose Eye Contact I have a variety of ways to get it back.

Companion Movement is an easy one. In dogs we call in Heeling. If we have Magnetic connection, we will be able to work with our dogs well at Liberty or off leash!

Leading from behind works for moving reluctant dogs. I know that will sound familiar to anyone who has done this Ritual with their horse. It really helped me with my old Deaf and Blind dog to get him in and out of the house.

Liberty Dancing? Well that's a REALLY easy one with dogs! They are easy to Send and Draw! They love to run and play with us and I often dance with my dogs to music in my kitchen which I recently found out quite a few other people do too! So let's keep dancing with our dogs and try out the WHR's with your dog.
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Children's Equitation Center

Tomorrow I will have the pleasure of working with Roberta Wilmore and the great group of kids she works with in her program. The Children's Equitation Center is focused on bringing kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience horses and farm life. As all of us know who work with animals closely, the invaluable life teachers they are, especially for children. If you would like to help out with a donation (They sorely need a new riding arena!) Or can help them out with safe pony and horse donations for the lesson program please go to there site at the Children's Equitation Center.
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The Virtues of Sharing Territory

When I first started working with Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals,   I had no idea it would become my favorite Ritual.

As a professional, I am paid to be agenda driven with horses. But I have my own horses and I wanted to improve my already good connection with them by doing this Method.

I listened to Carolyn's instructions and opted not to read but to just sit and "Be" with my horses. My Mare lived with a small herd that consisted of another mare, a mare pony, her filly, and my mini gelding. Mercury, was often by himself as prescribed by Carolyn. So, I got to practice this Ritual two different ways. With a single horse, and with a small herd.

I'd like to share some of my experiences that made this my favorite Ritual. First, let me paint a picture. We feed round bales and the horses  LOVE to nap in the round bales as they break down. On a sunny Spring or Winter day, I would often sit with them while they napped in the round bale in the sun in the Mare Paddock. Sometimes I would go in to get Phoenix to work with and I couldn't resist their beckoning me to sit with them. What is more peaceful then sitting with a herd of napping horses!

Other times, I found that Phoenix and her BFF would also sometimes create a triangle with me and stand over me napping. I found this very soothing and and felt their energy washing over me. I often sought out their paddock over the boys because this energy was so soothing. My friend who works with Qigong and horses said they were balancing me with their Yin energy and that I was seeking it out. I thought that was pretty cool.

It's to the point now where I can go into their paddock and sit down in the round bale and they will all slowly lay down around me! What else is there to say about that. It is pure bliss.

As for my favorite boy Mercury, He was the one I started to sit with first and I just observed things with him. I watched him, I paid attention to any things I noticed in myself and just stayed open to whatever may "Be". Mercury and I have been together since he was a yearling so we had a bond before I started the Waterhole Rituals but how much deeper it got and continues to get is hard for me to put into words. You can only know if you experience Carolyn's Method. Mercury is now 7 and I have been practicing Waterhole Rituals with him in addition to his regular performance training and Liberty work for a few years now. It has taken me places I never thought we could go and beyond.

The first few times I sat with him, I just enjoyed the time and relaxing. At the time I wasn't getting enough of that, so it was a welcome rest period in my day! After some time I became aware that Mercury was showing me the awareness level that a horse has. I began to experience his connection to all things in his environment. Everything that had a life force within his area right down to a butterfly. A Presentness and Awareness that was so much more "Awake" then we humans walk around in everyday. I now can shift in and out of that space when I want to and use it in my Yoga teaching and practice.

When I realized how much it impacted my horses connection to me, I started to learn the importance Sharing Territory with yourself, with other people you sought strong connections with and other animals was. I saw my Connection to myself and other people weaken and or strengthen at different times depending on how much or how little I did. I now use the term "Sharing Territory" with people, friends, and family. The balance of together doing nothing or together doing something is always in my mind.

When I got my new Puppy recently, The first thing I did was set up my office in the kitchen so he and my other dog and I could Share our space together while I worked. He would sometimes sleep on my lap while I worked or near my feet. At night I would let him sleep with me in my bed until he was old enough to sleep downstairs. We  have a very strong Connection now from my awareness of our time together.

In these days of over stimulation, rushing around, over filling our time and so on. Sharing Territory has become for me, a soothing balm. A place I can go to calm and prepare myself to "Be" and work with the horses. If I am stressed out or upset when I get to the barn. I can sit with them and work out of it. If I have not been able to see my animals for some time due to travel or other reasons, It is a way to get Connected to them that I did not have before I learned the Waterhole Rituals. It should be mandatory for all horse owners!

Even though, I am often on a tight schedule, I found creative ways to weave it into my work with clients horses to build rapport with them before we have to do our Technical work. But mostly, I have found, it is for me as much as it is for my horses well being. It is one of my favorite things to do with my horses...
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