How the Enneagram Shows Up in Dog Training
I believe that my ability to train my dog to bring out the best in her is fully dependent on my ability to keep myself healthy emotionally and mentally.
Imagine a hungry Sarah that also hasn't had coffee. Hungry Sarah is hangry, easily frustrated, and will probably not want to train for very long cuz she's too focused on needing food. In a sense, this is how the enneagram shows up in our dog training.
How we show up for our dogs when we're at our best will be very different than when we're stressed, unsure how to cope, or are relying on the coping mechanisms we've learned growing up. Our needs and tendencies will also show up in how we decide to learn, what is more effective, and when it simply becomes information overwhelm as opposed to practical steps we can take.
Habits and Lifestyle
One of the things that was easier for us to accomplish in our training was getting Etsu to chill and have a calm state of mind when I'm relaxing outdoors. Whether it was at a coffee shop, a park, or an outdoor mall -- she quickly learned how to achieve a calm state of mind the moment I sit down outside.
This wasn't by coincidence nor was it accidental. I love sitting outside and people watching, even before I had Etsu. Therefore, this was something I was consistently doing with her. The reps were easy for me, so recognizing what I needed became easy for her.
This does not mean that your dog should fit your lifestyle. Instead, what I am saying is, finding training opportunities in the things you can sustain while also making changes to bring out the best in your dog.
I hate walking around dirty, dreary neighborhoods. It just feels like a drag to me and since my neighborhood is just like that, I don't look forward to walking around the block. Of course, the area that Etsu struggles in the most, including all the new and busy environments, is where we live. Everywhere else, she walks decent. That's because I struggle to consistently train her in this area. In fact, I am more likely to rush when taking her out for a quick walk around our neighborhood than when I am everywhere else, with the intent of heading there to take our time.
Before Etsu, I used to struggle in using my voice, creating boundaries, and following through. When under stress with other people, I coped by attempting to speak up, but never followed through because 'I felt bad' or it simply took too much energy. Sure enough, advocating for my dog has been one of the hardest parts of training. It was the area that required the most growth from me.
Discovering Your Enneatype and What It Means
If you aren't familiar with the Enneagram yet, I first recommend taking the test. The link below is a great resource to help you identify which three to look into the most. Unlike the MBTI, the highest ranking score is not necessarily your type. I highly recommend reading the "Enneagram type and wing descriptions" for your top three scores to see which one you relate to the most. Afterwards, you can look through the "Subtypes and Variant Stacking" to further dive into the Enneagram you related to most. The links to these are below under Resources.
Patterns, Behaviors and Motivations
As a self preservation enneagram 4 with a high wing 5, I have certain patterns (behaviors) and tendencies in my life. I feel all emotions heavily, but I don't always express them. When unhealthy, I can actually bottle everything up, with the fear of feeling misunderstood if I was to share. Eventually, I can isolate myself from community and the world, spiraling into a deeper depression. I've been known to disappear when I fall deep into my hole. My friends, my family, and not even social media will hear from me.
These behaviors at the core of it, have been developed to cope with my fears, motivation and the core message I received when I was younger. Though these behaviors may show up with other enneagram types, the reasons and motivations for them as well as our coping mechanisms are all different.
As an enneagram 4, my basic fear is to have no significance and my basic desire (motivation) is to find who I am, understand my identity and find my significance.
As someone with a high wing 5, I love to learn and observe. I use these behaviors to add to my basic desire. I thrive when I am able to do to that, along with sharing what I've been researching or learning. I tend to find and develop my confidence through self expression in the specific areas I have been reading and researching, adding to my identity.
What does this mean for me? While this won't show up the same way for all Type 4's, here are some of my enneagram tendencies have shown up during dog training.
How My Enneagram 4 Tendencies Show Up
When I'm struggling emotionally, I have an extremely hard time getting up or doing anything. I tend to need to sit in my feelings and can't just snap out of it, so I'm sure to be unproductive. This is how I usually process things. Therefore, Etsu has been key in maintaining structure, even when I don't feel like it.
Although I am friendly, I am typically withdrawn. This can lead to me being a bit of a loner, and tend to do things by myself since I actually enjoy it. Pandemic training can make this feel more normal and socially accepted, but pre-pandemic, I would have felt pressured and simultaneously drained gathering with others in larger group settings. This can make me prone to having a difficult time feeling like I belong somewhere. My tendency to withdraw goes directly against my basic desire to have significance. Training with Etsu, however, has helped me take steps to share, be vulnerable, and be more in my body so I can develop community (integrating into growth).
I love things that are aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. This does not necessarily mean extravagant. In our training, I've found myself constantly looking and searching for a beautiful park, or beautiful scenery. I thrive and look forward to training when I know we're going somewhere in nature and can actually stay out with Etsu for hours at a time just relaxing outdoors. I get excited to sit at a coffee shop, people watching, daydreaming and doing absolutely nothing with Etsu. Which means maximizing this in me and our training helps her develop her chill.
Rugged, dirty, busy, urban areas full of people are probably going to be one of our challenges in training since I avoid them. In fact, it will only be her training (my purpose) that will probably keep me accountable in following through with that area of training.
Enneagram 4's are known to feel special or unique. While in my case, it tends to show up more as feeling 'different' and not having a place to belong, I have found that I do love training in unorthodox ways with Etsu. It can be as simple as seeing everyone train one way, so I'll intentionally try to find a different way to see if it's any more fun, effective, or if it helps boost her confidence at all. Ex: Teaching Etsu to use her back legs to push herself on the Penny Board to develop rear end awareness. Teaching Etsu to intentionally tilt herself on the Penny Board to develop confidence with moving items.
How My Enneagram 5 Tendencies Show Up
I do a lot of research, and will at times probably over do it for the sake at looking all sides which means if left unchecked, I can dive into rabbit holes of training methods as opposed to getting in my body and physically trying them with Etsu. As we know, the doing is what is helpful for our dogs.
I learn best from trainers who share a lot of content that I can digest for free as I dive into the rabbit hole. Only then will I be more likely to do a one-on-one training with them.
I am hungry to learn, so I learn best from trainers I can have casual conversations with and don't shut down when I ask questions or if I politely disagree
Puzzles are my jam so I tend to see training as creative problem solving for each individual dog. Whether mine or a friend's. Even if our dogs have a similar temperament, I still agree that not one size fits all. So I also emphasize in looking at the details since they tell you a lot of what you can tweak to find the solution.
At times, I can see my environment as a puzzle and have really enjoyed using it as moving pieces to fit our training needs, making use of what we have. Even if that means a rock, or a packaging material.
The personal ways they've shown up for me are just that -- personal. So even if you're a type 4, they may show up differently for you in your dog training. Here are some questions to get you started in identifying those tendencies.
Can you identify 5 ways your enneagram type tendencies show up in your personal dog training?
How can you intentionally maximize that so you look forward to training with your dog everyday?
At what points do your unhealthy traits show up?
Can you identify how your dog helps you stay accountable?
What drives and motivates you outside of dog training?
How can you clearly specify what motivates you so you're able to keep that in the forefront of your mind when the hard training days come by?
What types of messages do you find yourself saying (to yourself or others) when you're frustrated with dog training?
Each Enneagram has two wings. Wings are the 'closest neighbors' or the numbers before and after your enneagram type. As a type 4, my wings are 3 and 5. In most cases, though we can access both, there is one dominant wing. This wing will help flavor your decision making and coping mechanisms. One way for us to become more balanced is to notice when your dominant wing is taking over and when it is helpful for you to intentionally lean into the less dominant one.
In my case, my dominant wing is 5. Therefore, to have more balance in my life, it is good for me to lean into the 3. When training Etsu, my wing 3 (healthy or unhealthy) shows up as:
Getting less stuck in the mind, and moving into my body
Having the drive to achieve or accomplish more in my training with her
At times, treating our training journey like I'm a coach and she's the athlete
Pushing our limits to challenge both of us
Sometimes overdoing our training for a day or a week because I just keep going therefore not allowing either of us to rest enough
Wanting to be involved in canine sports or activities (agility, scent work, dog parkour).
It is less about an enneatype or a wing being good or bad, and more about identifying the healthy and unhealthy trait of each to intentionally lean into balance.
What types are next to yours?
Read the descriptions of both types. Can you identify areas that you relate to?
Have you noticed any of these patterns, motivations or fears show up when working with your dog?
Can you notice areas in your lesser dominant wing that you may benefit from if you lean into it more?
At what point can your dominant wing actually prevent you from taking action while training?
Direction of Growth and Stress
Each enneatype has a growth (integration) or stress (disintegration) arrow. You can find yours in "Overview and Levels of Development" below.
When I am under stress, or feel out of control, I can disintegrate into enneagram type 2.
When I am flourishing, and taking steps towards growth, I can integrate to enneagram type 1.
The more healthy we become, the more we are able to move fluidly from disintegration, our enneatype and integration. We no longer stay stagnant and identify with the old coping mechanisms. This does not mean that our enneagram type changes; rather, we have an easier time flowing into the healthy areas of our arrows.
I have a hard time being productive when I'm emotional (enneagram 4) but Etsu helps me maintain structure regardless of my emotions (enneagram 1, integration). The more I practice this, the more I'm able to strengthen this muscle of following through with what I need to do regardless of how I feel.
I become a people pleaser when under stress and have a hard time speaking up (enneagram 2, disintegration). Advocating for Etsu has helped me speak up and stand my ground, regardless of who I'm speaking with. I become more grounded and an emotionally healthier enneagram 4, no longer finding my significance attached to how others perceive me.
While yes, they are called growth and stress arrows, it is very much possible to still accces the unhealthy traits of the growth arrows. For example, as an enneagram 4, I can borrow the unhealthy overly critical part of the type 1, but direct it to myself. In moments like these, it is helpful to take note to see when it comes out while you're training your dog. These are moments that you will need to take a break.
What areas of training tend to stress you out the most?
How do you typically respond when you're stressed or overwhelmed with dog training information?
What would it look like if you were integrating into growth?
Which unhealthy traits of your growth arrow are you more prone to than others?
Can you identify patterns when there's too much structure and not enough play or vice versa?
At which point (integration or disintegration) does this happen?
Enneagram Subtypes and Stack
There are three main subtypes.
Self Preservation - value safety, personal health, energy and independence. Enneagram institute describes it as mostly "concerned with having enough resources to meet life's demands."
Sexual - need intensity in their relationships to remain satisfied. Enneagram institute describes it as "intense drive for stimulation and a constant awareness of the “chemistry” between themselves and others".
Social - are more likely to desire a long lasting impact in their community than the previous two. Enneagram Institute also describes it as "Social types adapt themselves to serve the needs of the social situation".
The stack shows your most dominant and therefore most developed to the least developed. We access all three in varying levels. Personally, for me, my primary is self preservation, therefore I am a 4w5 SP.
My stack is Self Preservation / Sexual or you can see this typed as SP / SX.
My least developed subtype is Social or SO.
Therefore, I tend to put most of my energy into making sure I'm able to survive and meet the basic things or life's demands. As a SP, training Etsu can go to the back burner when I am stressed and feeling like these basic things are not secure. I have to learn how to balance and develop my other subtypes to properly move forward.
For me, this has shown up as attempting to develop my community a lot more (SO). Since SO is my least developed, I generally pay less attention to how much impact I have with larger groups of people and actually prefer the one to one or close friends (SX).
Which subtype is your most dominant?
Which subtype is your least dominant?
When the needs of your dominant subtype feels less secure, how does dog training suffer?
How can you lean into and develop the secondary or least dominant subtype and take action one day at a time?
The Enneagram can feel complex, or overwhelming at times. It is by no means a quick fix or solution and in fact, requires us to ask questions. But diving into the enneagram can help us identify when the unhealthy coping mechanisms start to show up before they start affecting our training and relationship with our dogs. The healthier we are, the more we can provide and have a healthy relationship with our pups. The less healthier we are, the more we fall into the cycle and are likely to experience shame or guilt, tossing us back into feeling like we're a bad dog owner. Intentionally leaning into growth helps us know when to take breaks, lean into community, or ask help from others. The resources below will help you dive into your personal enneagram more as well as develop compassion for the other enneagram types and their dog training journey.