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The Journey

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Taking A Break at a Crowded Event

I was talking to a dog trainer friend of mine last week and we had an interesting discussion about our student dogs and how far many of them have come.  We are both incredibly results oriented.  I have strong beliefs about what skills a dog AND his handler should have after completing a basic obedience class.  We talked about my dog Maddie and I had to admit, she has come a very long way, but she is still what I refer to as my “special child”.  My life with Maddie has truly been an enriching and wonderful journey.

Maddie came to me profoundly unsocialized at three years old.  The first part of my journey was to socialize her around humans and extinguish the snappy behavior.  We moved on the socializing her around dogs.   Maddie, has probably come as far along the socialization journey as I would like to go.  Her impulse control has increased tremendously, but there are some things that she cannot resist off leash… like chasing small dogs, cats and other creatures.  Really, working through that would be incredibly tedious for me and frustrating for Maddie.  After all, she is still a wonderful family member and we can both enjoy other activities like tricks and nosework that Maddie finds fun, challenging and rewarding.  I don’t need to make Maddie something that she is not. I sometimes compare this to the things that I will never be.  I’ll probably go to my grave never understanding Calculus.  Fortunately, that does not preclude me from being a good family member, dog trainer, or from being accepted by society.

When working with dogs that face fear, aggression, stress, anxiety, or poor socialization, sometimes even a basic obedience class can be overwhelming.  I recently had a painfully timid dog in my basic obedience class.  Clearly, our goals for this dog were modified from my usual expectations.  We were all just happy to see her focusing on her owner and giving relaxed body language.

I also have found some dogs are successful at passing basic obedience, but advanced classes are very challenging.  In these cases it may be difficult to put your dog on a timeline for “success”.  Owners in these cases may need to change their expectations.  The dog and handler’s skills should improve over time, but each week and each day will have its ups and downs.

If you find that you or your dog are frustrated, unenthusiastic about class or practice, or show little improvement over time, it may be time to change the direction of the journey.  With so many options for enriching and fun activities for dogs in Broward County, dog owners can easily experiment with what is best for their dog.  Most group classes are reasonably priced and some don’t even have prerequisites.

Explore some new and exciting activities this school year with your dog.  You may find something you both love so you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination!


Written by dawnhanna

June 28, 2012 at 11:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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