Learning From the Dog, While The Dog is Learning From You

DogwalkRecently while preparing for a video shoot, I put together a list of some of my most pivotal lessons I have learned from each puppy I have raised and trained over my 27 years as a dog trainer. The experience of putting this list was enlightening; I strongly encourage you to do the same. The lessons you learn are sometimes not realized until long after the dog has passed on. Sometimes it takes a moment of reflection to see them.

Looking at my list reminded me of this video I put together back in 2008. I know I have shared it on my blog in the past, but I think it is worth re-visiting on a regular basis.

“Experience teaches only the teachable.”

This is a great quote from Aldous Huxley and I don’t even know if the man ever tried to train a dog. Sometimes it is difficult to see what is right in front of us. It may be more difficult to see it when talking about our dog training so I am going to put it into the perspective of being a teacher.

Some may view the job as a teacher to just share knowledge with their students.  I refer to this style of teacher as an “information dumper.” It is as if they are standing in front of people expounding “I know lots about this stuff…let me show you how brilliant I am.” Some students will learn but others will struggle.  I know, because I used to be this kind of teacher.

It was my students who taught me how to be a better teacher. I learned my job wasn’t just to share what I know but rather to help people get the results they desired. There is a big difference. My students results are a reflection of my abilities as a teacher. I learned to change my focus, to pay attention to ways to motivate, engage yet still challenge while I was sharing.

By learning while I was teaching I became a far more effective teacher.

Do you see the parallel to training our dogs?

Each time you interact with your dogs is an opportunity to learn.  This is particularly true with puppies, regardless of their age.  Just look at the pictures of my seven week old puppies holding a lovely control position while their pictures are taken. It is amazing how much more effective your training gets when you learn as you train.

While we are “training” the dog, the dog is there to help us learn what is the most effective way to share our lessons. Our dogs are a reflection of our abilities to share those lessons.

Some trainers may still try the “information dump” approach with their dogs. They have a book that tells them XYZ and regardless of what the dog does, how the dog responds, how fast or happy the dog appears, this trainer will continue to do just XYZ.

If we don’t learn from our experiences it is very likely we will find ourselves in a similar situation in the future. I hope you enjoyed watching or re-watching “The Journey.”

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Would love to read about the lessons your own puppies or dogs have taught you along your “journey”… leave me a comment below.

Today I am grateful for the blessing of all of those amazing puppies that shared so many great lessons with me.

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