Malinois dog sits on couch looking into camera with tilted head and laptop in front of him.I did something colossally stupid…

It was last week…it was not dog related…but it was a HUGE mistake.

I sent an email to nearly 10,000 people…with a giant typo in the subject line…

But that wasn’t the mistake. Typos happen.

The mistake was that I sent it to a large group of people I shouldn’t have.

Namely some old personal contacts I didn’t think our tech team migrated over to our new email service.

Like my ex…someone I never wanted to speak to again…(he doesn’t read my blogs so I’m safe).

And a former employee that got the ax and now wishes nothing more than my demise.

And here I am like “Hello, here’s an email from me to let you know I’m thinking about you and I clearly can’t spell.” ***facepalm***

So all day long, I’m thinking about the what ifs.

I’m dwelling on all of the bad things that could unfold as a result of my HUGE mistake.

And then, as I always do, I decided to turn my mistake into a blog post…

Because putting our mistakes out there lets people know it’s ok when you make them.

And believe it or not, it takes the sting out of it.

Here’s the thing… I spent a good hour or two dwelling on the WHAT IFs.

All of the bad things that could happen as a result of my mistake.

And that’s not a first for me. In life, and in my dog training.

Here are just a few examples of my fears getting the better of me.

“What if I left the space heater on and my house burns down while I’m at the store, leaving all of my dogs trapped inside?”

“What if people think I’m a complete moron for using this method in my training since those trainers (very loudly) support another one…”

“What if my dog gets injured in sport work and his entire career (and life) is ruined?”

And the list goes on…

Listen, I know we all have fears around our dog training. Big fat WHAT IFs that can actually stifle our progress.

In fact, I posted about it inside of my training group, and hundreds of people shared their fears and insecurities.

It was brilliant…

And cathartic….

And beautifully inspiring.

Because the truth is…we all have fears around the What Ifs.

But here’s the question we never ask ourselves as we are stewing in all of the things that could go wrong.

“What about the GOOD what ifs?”

As I’m worrying about my dog breaking himself in sport work, why not think of all of the wonderful things that could happen as a result instead?

“What if he is tremendously happy and fulfilled?”

“What if we take our relationship to a whole new level?”

“What if we spend more time together having fun and building our bond?”

Why do I never give THOSE what ifs any real estate in my mind?

Here are just a few of the “What ifs” dog owners shared with me in my group…

And here are my responses…

The Fear:

“What if my dog and I are not actually capable of doing what we are trying to do? What if people are right and it’s only for the elite?

My response:

What if you ARE capable of that…and so much more? What if your relationship was better for it? What if you crushed your goals? Because I know you can…

The Fear:

“What if my dog with issues gets loose and hurts someone?”

My response:

What if he doesn’t? What if he stays with you, under complete control? What if you find a way to get the issues in check and your relationship improves as a result? What if everything works out perfectly? Because I know you can do it…

The Fear:

“What if the only thing holding me back is my skill as a trainer?”

My response:

“What if you’re better than you give yourself credit for? What if the only thing holding you back is your fear?” I believe in you…now it’s your turn.

The Fear:

“What if my puppy never gets out of his fearful barking?”

My response:

“What if he does? What if he does because you helped him do it?” Because I know you can…

The Fear:

What if my dog is just too much for me?

My response:

“What if he’s not? What if you are better at this than you think? What if you’re getting better every day because of him being too much? What if I told you I had the same fear about my first dog? And he taught me more about dog training than any “easy” dog could..

The Fear:

“What if I get into a car accident and he’s trapped”

My response: “What if you don’t?” (because the odds are actually in my favor here 😉

Every time I find myself spinning on the What Ifs, I ask myself one simple question.

What about the GOOD what ifs? And then, I list them.

Dog trainer, Meagan Karnes sits and smiles at Malinois dog who is holding a tug in mouth.

That one simple question completely shifts my mood and my worry.

And it moves me from stuck to powering through.

What if the people I sent that email to thought I was a complete idiot?

Or…what if some of them actually WANTED to hear from me?

What if that email hit a few people I miss like crazy and reminded them that I really WAS thinking of them?

And what if I rekindled old friendships as result?

And what if it landed in my ex’s spam folder? (The ONLY time I actually appreciate SPAM filters)

What about the GOOD what ifs? Because believe it or not, those outcomes are far more likely to happen than the bad stuff anyway…

Oh, and btw, those What ifs actually rear their ugly head because you CARE. And that’s something to be proud of. If you didn’t have any What ifs, I’d question your motives and integrity as a dog trainer, handler, and owner.  

You are better than you think. So cut yourself some slack and start focusing on the positive outcomes instead of the negative ones.

What if you crushed your fears and insecurities?

What if you faced them head on?

Because I am here to tell you, you ARE enough. And I know you can.

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    11 replies to "The Big What If: Fears, Insecurities and Shifting Your Mindset"

    • Moni

      Printed it out and it is hanging on my fridge now. Just what I needed

    • Moina

      I loved this blog, thank you. You nailed it, what if we are actually doing something really good. Thank you,

    • Virginia Fuller

      Very true!we all have fears! True about your mindset! That is the hardest challenge of all!????

    • Wendy Delgado

      MISS Meagan, I cannot begin to tell you how the things that you are said really speak to me about fear!!! I had a not so successful experience with raising an Australian Cattle Dog last year, and after reading some of your posts I can see why! Everything I did with this dog was wrong for us. I want to share the story with you sometime when we can speak face to face, or on the phone. You are a tremendous blessing!

    • Kate

      Honestly this brought tears of relief to me reading this! We have a new 4 month old pup who is much more challenging than our recently lost 17 year old. Feeling so fearful and concerned and this was the perfect antidote thank you!

    • Jee Hae

      Loved it. I had a vision of Sue in my head as I read this.
      Thank you so much ❤

    • Jacqueline Preyde

      This is a great read and little confidence booster. I work with a lot of behaviour dogs and I was just saying to my close friend yesterday that “maybe I should just throw in the towel… I’m not getting anywhere and I’m going nuts!” It was with some encouragement from her and now reading this that I’m feeling a lot better.

    • Lisa

      AWESOME POST!! What if it helps other trainers, which I know it will!! It helped me. Thanks

    • Bethany Moy

      Thank you for this <3

    • Deborah

      Perfect timing to read this article as I just got kicked out of another training class with my rescue standard poodle because of his leash reactivity issues. Reading this gives me the courage to keep moving forward and find what works when all I want to do is cry. Thank you!

    • Karan

      What kind of color would you recommend for Pitbull it was supposed 60lb this might had back problems in couple back surgeries and neck surgeries and husband has bad knees

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