There’s a common misconception about the word karma. People think of it as some sort of cosmic system of checks and balances, where good deeds are rewarded, and bad behaviors are punished. In reality, the concept of karma doesn’t need an unseen force to punish or reward us, the cause and the effect are one. If you translate karma it literally means “action.” Karma Yoga therefore is the yoga of taking action. It means we find liberation (or happiness or whatever it might be) through our actions themselves, not the rewards/benefits of those actions. In fact the result is inherent in the action itself. Our practice is to do the right thing because doing the right thing is in and of itself a rewarding thing to do, not because of some future, imaginary reward.
The cool thing about our dogs is that they live in the present moment, the only moment when Karma can actually exist. They’re not doing something or not doing something because they think they’re making a better future for themselves. They are doing the action that is called for in the moment. We can learn a lot from them in this way. Likewise, when we are working on our dog’s behavior, we mustn’t look too far into the future. We’re not guiding our dogs, setting boundaries and training them because we hope that someday it will pay off. We are doing those things because it is what’s called for in the present moment. When we do the right thing, the future takes care of itself, but that’s sort of irrelevant anyway. When we do the right thing, we experience the fruits of our action in the only moment that we can actually experience - the present.
For our dogs this means being a fair leader, or a good dog parent, here and now. And we do it because that is what’s best for our dog here and now. If we love our dogs, the best we can do is be present with them, understand what they need in the moment, and use our karma (action) accordingly. It’s not a game of “I’ll love my dog when…” it’s a game of “I love my dog now.” See each moment with your dog as a chance to practice karma-taking action in the present moment. Don’t get stuck in the past or future, just do the next right thing.