Listen to the Podcast
The majority of my thinking these days falls in line with that of a dog trainers. There are things that are engrained so deeply now, that it's surprising to me when I hear a different opinion or tactic. I pride myself on having an open mind, but there are definitely beliefs that I hold so strongly to that I can't imagine thinking differently. I remember the days prior to becoming a dog trainer well and there are times I smile at the old me and think, if I'd only known then.
When it occurs to me that I'm thinking 'like a dog trainer' it always makes me smile. Today, I thought I would take to my keyboard and try to organize the thoughts that make this so. What's the difference between me now and me then? There are plenty!
I Have Higher Expectations
As a dog trainer surrounded by dog trainers, I have the luxury of knowing how capable dogs are when they get the right information.
I get to see incredible things. Not the TV dog performing amazing tricks and skills that everyone sees, but the dogs belonging to my friends, collegues and mentors doing amazing things and performing spectacular skills - right there in front of me. In our midst, we have World Champions in Agility, Disc Dog, Lure Coursing and Flyball. We have high end competition dogs competing in Rally, traditional Obedience and field work. You name the sport and chances are, we have an instructor who is passionate about it.
Once you've seen what dogs are capable of, it becomes impossible to ignore. Impossible to go back to thinking it's not possible to have such a capable and amazing creature! Once you've seen some successes in your own training, there's definitely no going back!
Since I started thinking like a dog trainer, I've removed any ceiling when it comes to possibilities. That means, my expectations have changed a great deal.
I now have a clear and perfect mental picture of my end game and where I want to be and while the path to that picture is often still a winding road, the challenges along the way do not change my expectations. As a dog trainer, I now know that anything is possible.
I Don't Put Off Until Tomorrow
I do remember the days when I would think - I'll fix that later. Those days are long gone! I now know that allowing behaviours that I will disallow down the road breeds far more confusion for my dog. Things like jumping on people to say hello during critical socialization or pulling to visit etc. are now things of the past. I spend far more time planning my training sessions these days so that I can teach the right habits from the start rather than having to backtrack.
These days, I always have a perfect mental picture of the end goal so that I can try to take the most direct route to get there.
I Want to Learn More
... and more and more. Once I started to identify as a dog trainer, I wanted more. When you see what dogs are truly capable of, it opens up a whole new world.
There's always more to learn and ways to improve on what you already know. Being a dog trainer has helped me maintain an open mind as I've aged. I can tell you with 100% certainty that most of the times that I've said "never" or "always", I've shortly after been corrected by a dog who doesn't fit the mold. For me, I get fired up by that humility and become a sponge for more knowledge and more tools to continue with that dog. Dogs make the best teachers.
We Work Hard!
Sweat equity truly is the biggest key to raising a well-trained dog who listens well. You may be able to get away with slacking off in other departments, but dogs are honest creatures and will never placate you.
Not at all.
If you don't put in the work, you are not going to get the results. That's a fact. Dogs don't sit around waiting for an opportunity to please us. They are not looking for our validation or praise. They are living, breathing beings with their own agendas. If you don't put in the time to teach them skills and manners, they won't offer them up.
It's hard work, but it's rewarding work.
We've Experienced the Bond First Hand
Once you've trained a dog or two, you realize how powerful the bond that's created is and you'll never want to live any other way. It's amazing what communication can do for a relationship - ask any couples therapist! It's a wonderful feeling when you realize that your dog's agenda has started to line up with yours. Just like humans, most dogs love learning and love the challenges they are presented in training.
Never underestimate the power of the bond you'll create by opening the lines of communication with your 4-legged family members.
As always, Happy Training!