Here’s the thing…
When we are young, we just start. We just do things. For effect, to test, and we don’t care about imperfections. Folks just glance at you, smile knowingly, and let you carry on. But you have to try. You have to get started. And what happens along the way is we start to be judged, or feel judged. We get older and the pressure is on us to preform our best, to have the right answers most of the time.
Trying new things becomes paramount. Becomes impossible. Too hard. We just think of all the ways something could go wrong, and we stop before any one notices we had a thought in our head.
But let’s go backwards for a moment. To that last time you just did something with a childish grin. Maybe no one was around you. And you grabbed hold of the moment…and it went right. I tried stand up paddle boarding this summer. I rented a cheap board at a busy tourist beach. Lots of kids. Lots of adults. My family. My in- laws. The owner of the rental place handing me my paddle, “Do you need help?” No, I think. I want to carve out a small space in a large lake. I want to be alone, on the water. On a windy day. With my childish grin. Guess what? I fell in. With my family staring at me, strangers looking, kids laughing. My childish grin wiped off my face. But I wanted the thrill (if there was any) of gliding across the lake like I walk on water regularly. So, back on my face; my childish grin. And I’m probably the only person who remembers that moment in the whole world. Of triumph when I put on my little (big girl) pants back on and paddled all the way across that lake like a freaking pro.
This is what dog training is all about. Because each dog is going to be a whole lot different than any other dog you’ve ever had your hands on. Every dog training session I hear owners say, “My last dog was nothing like this…” in a good way, or a negative way. When you take the end of a dog leash, no matter whose dog, or where, folks are going to watch. We are a dog- obsessed society. So we are afraid of walking down the street with our leash reactive dog. We are afraid of asking friends over because of our over -excited dog. We are afraid of hosting Thanksgiving dinner because of our counter- surfing dog. We are afraid of going to the park with our stranger- wary dog. So we lock our dog away at home. We hide away our struggles. Then, BAM!, when you are finally brave enough to step out the door with that not so perfect dog in our high pressured society with all eye balls on… we are bombarded with folks telling to sit the dog, block the dog, wave food in the dogs face, stomp our feet, talk louder to the dog, yell at the dog, let the leash out, pull the leash in, let the dogs sort it out, let them say hi and play…. The list goes on! But what do we do? Well I say, do some homework on dog training, find what makes you feel right in your blood pressure, your gut, your heart. And go forward with that childish grin on and just start. Carve out that small space in the big world.
And as a trainer, for those of you who have all of those struggles mentioned above- I would say…
What you allow is what you create. What you feed or pet, is what you get. Use the word Yes when you mean it. Use the word No when you mean it. Reinforce both of those words to your dog. Advocate for your dog. I have nothing to prove when I walk my dog down the street. If I see another dog coming towards me that just doesn’t look like the sort of dog I need my dog around, I cross the street! Advocate. Step in front of your dog and be a leader. Be someone your dog can follow. Get the education- because guess what- you were not born with the knowledge of how to work with a hard dog.
But really- just get started!