“Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows” Brittany Packnett
The new quote for my Clare Teaching Dogs email signature, because this is so applicable to Dog Training today. Confident dogs and Confident people can create magic together, confidence is the spark for the relationship we dreamed of with our dog. Without confidence, the dog owner will default to compliance, whether it is seeking to teach their dog ‘obedience’ or looking for the guru to tell them what to do. Without confidence the dog trainer will also default to compliance, buying into the prescribed format of ‘how to teach class’. I have been both of these people, once with my own dog who had started showing aggression and as a new trainer taking my first steps into teaching others.
Almost 10 years ago I took a step away from prescription teaching and decided to teach people and dogs what they needed. Although much harder for me on the teaching side, the results were positive and the transformations amazing.
What did I learn?
It turns out that dogs don’t actually need to learn sit, down, stay and recall after all. Rather dogs need to learn how to be adaptable to a world that changes quickly. Dogs need to be encouraged to be curious about their new world, sensitively exposed to new events and environments. Dogs need to be given permission to be dogs, and to be dogs of a certain breed or type. Dogs need appropriate play with other dogs, not a free for all with other pups, along with breed typical games that allow them to display their talents. Dogs need to learn to be adaptable and flexible, we seek to include our dogs into our lives, which means our dogs need to behave differently in specific situations, and we have to teach them how to do this.
It also turned out that people don’t need to learn how to command their dogs, how to make their dogs do something and how to be the most ‘fun’ thing in the park. You see people arrive with the key element of dog training already in place, they just don’t know how important it is or have the skill to apply it yet. The key element is connection, an ability to form a relationship, a skill that is common to all the dog owners who have walked through my door (or onto my computer screen these days). People already have the skills to transform their relationship with their dog, they just need some guidance on how to transfer them in a situation that feels overwhelming at times. My role as a dog trainer and group class leader is not to default to sit, down, stay, but find activities that unlock the relationship building skills. I can teach dogs and people how to play games safely together. Hunt and seek together over a variety of household objects and unused agility equipment. Read each other’s body language and respond appropriately. Role play real life situations from sitting in a café to deflecting the ‘friendly’ dog in the park. I can set up activities to help people observe and learn about their dog. What does their dog already do well, what do they still need to learn? What does their dog find rewarding, what makes them unsure, what will they approach and what will they run away from?
I can make time for and set up opportunities for Q and A’s, evaluating our learning and allowing a community to build.
The Final Goal
Confidence is the ultimate transformation. All of the above lead to confidence, I want you to feel confident in yourself, confident in your dog and confident in each other. With confidence you can navigate yourself through your own world, you’ll drop in for support now and again, but you won’t be reliant on an ‘expert’ 24/7.
I want your dog to feel confident, I want you to live with a dog that can cope with our modern world, a dog that can turn to you for safety and security, a dog that shares your life with you.
The Clare Teaching Dogs community and learning pathway is here for you, drop me a line today and get involved.