Ever wondered why you have the specific dog that you currently have? Well, probably because that’s the dog you picked right? But what if there is a little more to that?
Have you heard of the saying:
We always get the dog that we need, not the dog that we want!?
Now if you have a dog that has severe behavioural problems, you might ask: “Why the heck would I “need” a dog with behavioural problems”? I’m sure if your dog could talk, he could exactly explain you why.
Most people take dog training to teach their dog something new, solve behaviour problems or to learn to communicate with their dog so they understand each other. But have you ever really ever looked at it the opposite way? Instead of you always teaching your dog something new, have you ever paid attention to what your dog actually has to teach you?
We focus so much on what we want our dogs to learn, that we forget what life lessons they have to teach us. There is way more behind that specific dog that you got right there. When I talk about life lessons, I'm not talking about things like you read in other articles where they say: Dogs teach us to smile more, live in the moment, or to kick dirt over things and move along... I mean, they are great skills, don't get me wrong, but I find dogs teach us way more and specifically life skills that we are in desperate need of to reach our biggest self.
Each dog comes into our life to teach us something. That's what I believe anyway. It's up to you to pay attention to what the lessons you are being taught and actually make use of it. We all have to learn life lessons and I think while all of our dogs teach us some of the same skills, I think some of the skills are very personal and individual that only THIS dog can teach us.
If you have a dog you struggle with, try to see past just those problems, work through it with your dog and learn the lessons. Take it as a blessing to grow, rather than something to be embarrassed about being inconvenient.
Take a serious moment to determine what your dogs have taught you!
Here I’ll share some 5 things each of my dogs have taught me that made me grow and become a better person and dog trainer.
Well, you know, I wasn’t always a Dog Trainer. Yes, I believe it or not! And there comes Durian, while I grew up with dogs, Durian my Bull Terrier was my first own dog. I knew what I got myself into with a Bull Terrier and she was a struggle. Yes, the Dog Trainer struggled with her own dog at some point. Even though I attended training with her from the very beginning and for a long time, I made mistakes, I repeated my mistakes over and over again, until I have tried so many different training techniques, that I started helping other people with their dogs...that’s where my dog training passion started.
Eventually the hard work I put into Durian paid out and I got a great dog and discovered the career of my dreams...but that’s not what she has taught me really.
Here are 5 things that Durian taught me:
Don’t get frustrated so fast
Oh dear. I got frustrated so many times with her, and I feel guilty because she was the one that had to endure it, but it didn’t bring us anywhere. If you are frustrated, your dog gets confused as it is a feeling they cannot relate to when you try to communicate with them and in the end nobody learned anything.
Only those who don’t try really fail. I was determined to have a “show off” Bull Terrier like not many people do. We tried over and over again and here she is, almost perfect ;)
Problem solving skills
Well if all those things that you have learned so far don’t work, and there were many things that didn’t work with Durian, you’ll have to find something else. Or maybe analyze what you are doing wrong in the whole process to determine what is the right thing to do.
Wait, wait, waaait. Ugh, patience is something I didn’t have much of back in the days and it can still be a struggle for me. Everything has to go fast and happen now. Things don’t change from 1 day to the other, give your dog time and patience while he is learning.
Stay true to yourself and be who you are
Durian always had a very specific picture of who she was, but I thought she needed to be something else. I thought it was in her best interest to be something else. I thought she needed to be an active sporty Bull Terrier, but she disagreed. She said I’m a couch potato and I don’t want to do sports. Have you ever seen a dog that walks of the training ground? Yes, that’s her! She showed me over and over again who she really is over a long time and in many different ways. While she did comply with me, because I pushed her to it to a certain degree, she still stayed true to herself and kept telling me “That’s not me!”. Once I accepted who she really is, she became much happier in her life. We still have fun together and do things, but I respect her for who she is and don’t push her into things anymore as much that she really isn’t fond of.
Taz was chosen very wisely from a shelter.
I saw the potential in this guy and decided that he would be perfect for my growth as a dog trainer not knowing about some behaviour issues that came with him as he didn’t display all of them while being at the shelter. But I guess, that was meant to be and yes I have grown a lot as a person and a Dog Trainer since he joined our team.
Here are 5 things Taz has taught me:
While Durian helped me being more patient and not getting frustrated so fast, Taz definitely played a big part in working on my emotional control. This is a very important skill in Dog Training, and while I never get frustrated with clients dogs, I do with my own. It’s normal simply because I have a personal relationship with them. If you have a dog that tends to lunge at the end of the leash, whether it is out of frustration, excitement, anxiety, fear etc. keeping your emotions controlled, calm and neutral is very important to help your dog in the training progress. Sometimes that can even mean not getting frustrated at the other person that just let their off leash dog approach your leashed dog in an area with leash laws.
Taz is one of those dogs that wants to work and use his brain... A LOT. So if I teach him a new trick but all of a sudden he can’t perform it properly I have to find out why. So analyzing the situation on where it went wrong and how this mistake could have been prevented is the piece of the puzzle to solve the problem.
To be non judgmental
We are easy to judge others, I’m guilty of it. As a Dog Trainer it is my job not to judge and I never judge anybody asking me for help, we are easy to judge others and their dogs if we don’t know them at all. Why is their dog behaving so badly? They better should see a Trainer! Oh, that’s one of these bad owners! Etc.
To be honest, I think unless people ever had a dog with severe behavioural issues they just won’t understand. Even if the dog still is displaying issues, how do we know how much work people have already put in the dog and how much better it has gotten in the meantime. They are fully aware that their dog still has issues but on the other hand they are super proud of how fare there dog might have come. Instead of judging people (whether we know if they had taken the steps to make it better or not) we should try to uplift them and build their confidence so they can move ahead and better themselves and their dogs.
Having a high energy dog with certain exercise requirements and having some behaviour issues in work progress, you better have discipline to be able to keep that dog mentally stimulated and meeting his needs. It is a hell of a lot easier to control behaviour problems and keeping them at a minimum while you are working to solve them if you ensure your dog has the proper physical and mental stimulation he as an individual needs. No discipline means an unruly unhappy dog and that will show in many ways.
Understand that there are reasons for behaviours (even if it makes no sense to us) and helping the individual through it without judging. Showing compassion to my clients and being authentic with them so they know they are not alone in their struggles goes a long way to a better dog.
While I applied most lesson taught to dog training in this article, you can apply each of those skills to any life situation. I feel honoured being able to recognize all those lessons my dogs teach me. Every dog and every client I meet make me a better person and Dog Trainer. I can’t wait for all my own personal dogs that I will meet during my life and listening to them what they have to tell me!
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”