There is No Perfect Dog
Almost four years ago: As a dog trainer, in a new area, planning on starting up my own business, and having a new puppy, I thought everything was going to be perfect. Boy was I wrong! I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not!
I guess these are the joys of life. Every second, every minute, every hour, day, week, month, year - it's a learning experience. Our past experiences dictate how we handle certain situations - mentally and physically. We know right from wrong, and we know we have consequences (positive or negative) from the decisions we make. We all have different viewpoints, and we choose to either be closed minded, or open minded. We get overwhelmed, we get frustrated and angry. We also get excited, happy and determined. This emotional list goes on and on and on.
What does all of this have to do with dog training? Going back to my thinking that everything was going to be perfect scenario - we all have high expectations from our dogs. Especially trainers. I expected more out of Pikey than what she knew. I expected my dog to know everything after working with her once. I expected her to read my mind and act on that (insert sarcasm: somehow my husband and daughter still don't get this either - go figure). I struggled, I got embarrassed, and I wondered how clients could take me seriously seeing my dog ignore me during demos, and doing 'dog' things.
So, where do the joys of life and learning experiences come into play? Well, I first had to learn to accept the fact that I will never own a perfect dog. They just don't exist. Just like people, dogs have their own quirks. While we can work with those quirks, they will always exist - the results are determined by how consistent we are. Next, I had to learn to let go of the thoughts that my dog should know better, that she was being stubborn because she despised me. I didn't see that it was 'me' that was the real problem. That I was the one that had to make changes. With this thought process, I could then learn to move on to actually training her with success, without stress, and then there was joy again .
Easier said than done. I know. This is where our thinking and emotions come in. We need to stop making excuses for our dogs behavior, and make changes with ourselves, our habits, our behavior. This is really what dog training is about as a dog trainer. It's teaching you - the owner. As far as past experiences go - this is where proper socialization and experience comes into play. For a dog, from the time they are born, to the time they mature (around 2 years of age), they go through imprint and fear stages. The better the experiences through these stages, the more stable they will be as an adult. What about a dog you adopted with an unknown history? Well, don't make excuses for the unknown history. Go back to the beginning and work on your relationship and exposure at your dogs pace. Work through behavior issues with a trainer or behaviorist. On a side note - just because you went through the imprint and fear stages correctly, there are situations where genetics can and will play a factor into temperament and behavior. Again, we can't make excuses for these cases, but seek out a behaviorist for help. As far as knowing right from wrong - dogs have instincts and that is what they live by. Even though we teach them consequences to certain actions, they are still animals at the end of the day. This is where rewarding the good behavior comes into play and not just waiting for the bad behavior to give them attention.
Be open minded when it comes to your dog. Work with the quirk, don't write your dog off completely; Learn how to tweak this quirk to work in your favor. Be open minded when it comes to your training, Educate yourself and try new methods, tools, and techniques when it comes to training. This isn't a one size fits all world. Again, I'm going to say educate yourself. The best way to do this, is to learn from someone that has experience. Be open minded when it comes to your frame of mind when you train. If you are in a bad mood, don't train. You won't do you or your dog any favors.
Pikey is an amazing dog. She definitely has moments where she is a dog. She counter surfs when my back is turned, she won't come when called in certain situations (mainly when food or free run are involved), she will decide she wants to play with the cone instead of running around it when we practice directionals, she will bark at me when she gets confused and frustrated. The list goes on and on and on. When I sit back and think about things, I can't really blame her. She is the most food motivated dog I have ever had. Up to the point that I loose her during training if I'm using a high value reward. It's my fault when I leave something in her reach on the counter. Shame on me, I knew better. So, I learn and I make changes to my behavior. I set situations up where she fails so I can get in a sneak correction. When she decides it's time to play, I have a good laugh, let her get it out of her system and then get back to work. I learn that she goes for so long before she gets bored and decides it's time to play. I use that to my advantage the next training session to instigate the play before she gets bored. This way, she's not dictating when and how she gets the rewards she wants. I made changes to the way I train, I opened my mind even more, I laughed with her more, and decided not to make training a stressful and perfect result. Instead, I train in shorter bursts so I don't feel overwhelmed by the time spent from my busy day. I train when I'm in a good mood. I use playing as a reward more often, and we have so much more fun when doing so. We dance, we laugh, we enjoy everything now the stress of being perfect has been taken out of the equation. If she decides to be a dog at a training session, I remind myself that is what she is - a dog.
As you sit there, trying to make sense of and process this insanity, think to yourself, or feel free to share what quirks your dog has that you are now realizing are directly related to you and your behavior. What changes will you make when training with your dog?
I saw this video for the first time today, and is what actually inspired this blog post. My first time through the video, I was going through several different emotions. At one point, I felt like giving up. But, as I sat here - knowing this dog was rescued, and watching the handlers response, I realized what an amazing handler she is. She is giving her dog the best exercise and stimulation, and the dog is having a blast!!!! What else could you ask for in life when you are a dog?
This video was posted on YouTube and belongs to Crufts.
Our 2018 class schedules has been posted to the website. You will notice some small changes to the schedule. We know how busy life gets in the summer, so we still want to see you work with your dog, but not be obligated for weeks on end. I am going to be offering weekday, weeknight and weekend classes. Even though I don't offer a CGC class, by taking obedience, manners and leash class, these should set you up for passing the CGC test. I have seen many dogs go through the obedience class that only needed work with leash pulling, or obedience, or manners. So, now you don't have to commit to an 8 week class and you can focus strictly on the areas your dog needs more help with
To see more details, please visit the . Our 4 Dog Nips classes are mini sessions geared for working on specific behavior problems, such as Fearful and shy dogs, reactive dogs, loose leash walking, and recall. You can sign up as many times to these classes as you want. Each class is $15.00 and is 1 hour long.
Our 4 obedience classes run for 4 weeks and will also be open for walk-ins. We highly recommend you make all 4 classes to get the most out of the training. These classes are split up into puppy 101, obedience, manners, and therapy. Again, you can sign up to as many classes as you want. 4-week sign up cost is $45.00, with drop-ins being $15.00 per class.
Our 2 sport classes run for 4 weeks and will also be open for walk-ins. Again, we highly recommend you make all 4 classes to get the most out of the training. These classes include tricks and nosework/deer shed hunting. 4-week sign up cost is $45.00, with drop-ins being $15.00 per class.
Last but not least, I am offering CGC Testing / Open training days. CGC testing fees will be $10.00 per test. If you have completed a 4-week course, your testing fee will be $5.00. If you completed an 8-week CGC Class or completed an 8-week course, you will not have a testing fee.
All open training will be $10.00 for an hour. Open training will not have a class outline or homework. Instead, we will be working on advancing what you have learned, or learning something new that isn't offered in any of our other classes - such as directionals, fitness, rear end awareness, etc. I want to give you the opportunity to explore new things! Please remember that we will not be doing any behavior modification in this class. Please remember that all schedules are tentative and subject to change. Registration will open on March 26th.