Even though my cats and dogs don’t read (at least not to my knowledge), they instinctively live by the principles of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and they seem to expect me to do so as well. In fact it’s as if they assume I live by these agreements already!

The message of the Four Agreements resonates with me so much that it’s been the focus of several classes I’ve taken. As humans we often need to be reminded of the Toltec wisdom, and because I bet your animals are probably a lot like mine, let me share how to apply the Agreements to life with pets for a better understanding between you. After all, who doesn’t want a more harmonious household?

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.

Mixed signals to an animal will create chaos. Because they easily pick up on the images and feelings we’re thinking and feeling, our words need to match our thoughts.

Always speak of what you want, and never of what you don’t want. For example, rather than saying, “Don’t get on the couch,” instead say, “Go to your bed” or “Stay on the floor” – whatever your desired outcome is. Animals cannot understand the negation of a sentence; they pick up on the keywords and act on that, so “Don’t get on the couch” is translated as “On, couch.” The more emotion or energy behind the statement, the more important they think it is and react accordingly.

If two people in the house have different ideas on how the animal should behave, the animal will always be confused and likely disappoint at least one of the people, if not both. Be consistent and clear.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Animals typically judge you in the moment, not for behaviors of the past or stories they’ve heard about you. Ask yourself – right here and now – how is my energy? Loud and angry? Excited? Quiet and loving? Right now is what determines their response. This is one reason you see dogs remaining so loyal to their person despite living in conditions we might think are bleak and cruel.

We have all met people we instantly connect with and some that we don’t, and it’s no different for animals. In my experience it’s highly unlikely an animal is shunning you due to one thing you said or did to them. Be aware of your energy and emotions when interacting with animals, as they are very sensitive.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions.

Do you know exactly how a Chihuahua acts towards strangers? Or what a Border Collie likes to do for fun? Think again! One big lesson I’ve learned by talking with so many different breeds is that every animal is unique, especially within its breed.

When you are meeting or working with a new animal, let them express themselves to you instead of assuming you already know who they are or exactly what they are like. Making assumptions comes from thinking, and with all animals (humans included), we need to observe and feel instead of assume. Be open to experience the beautiful uniqueness of the animal.

4. Always Do Your Best.

Your dog doesn’t know what a perfect person would act like, so don’t bother to strive for that. Just do your best in any situation. From my experience talking to many animals, I know that, just like a child, they will almost always ask for more treats, more play, more fun. However, living on this earth with us means they must learn that we all have to fit into the confines of daily life and whatever limitations that brings. Your animals are grateful no matter what, so just do your best.

Living by these agreements can help bring harmony into all lives. The bottom line is when we do the very best we can, everyone benefits!

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