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3 Primary Components of Working a Successful Training Program: Attitude, Practice, and Technique

Every time you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this deep process of change and exploration with my dog?” And, “Wouldn’t I rather be doing something else with my dog?” Instead, try to tell yourself this:

My time with my dog is finite. I want to give my all to help him be the happiest, most content, confident and reliable dog he can be. So I will do everything asked of me.

Attitude & Presence:

How you walk, talk, and communicate with your dog

Your dog will thrive on consistency, fairness, and calm, grounded leadership. We live in a world full of stress and unplanned challenges, so navigating through it with a calm, responsive manner is not always possible. But the more we can aim for this goal, the more our dogs will see us as their strongest advocate. This way, they can relax and show their greatest strengths no matter what is going on around them.

Technique:

Where you stand, what you do on the leash, what you say to your dog, and how you hold your posture

Guiding your dog requires multi-tasking. You are handling the leash in a specific way that promotes clear communication. You are in tune with your dog’s needs and cues. You are aware of your surroundings but not lost in them. You are present with your body and mind. All of these components need to be integrated, often quickly and simultaneously. You need to think and respond quickly to changing environments and your dog’s needs. Multi-tasking is not easy. You must start slowly and in a quieter, low distraction environments to master all that is happening for you and your dog. Ideally, over time, you will become fluid with your body, the leash, your communication and with the environment itself. When this happens, you realize you are truly present for your dog.

Practice:

Training is not about carving out 30 minutes at the end of the day to work with your dog. Rather, how do you interact with him in many moments and contexts throughout your day? How you feed him, play with him, walk him — this is all “dog training.”

Training your dog happens moment-to-moment throughout the day. These moments are easier to grasp and apply because there’s no pressure of a “have to” session getting pushed to the back burner. But dogs do their best when distractions and triggers are low. This way, they can fully grasp what you ask of them. This phase may take several weeks, and that is okay. Then we must move into the phase of training as a “way of life.” Training is not compartmentalized, i.e., only practiced in controlled environments. This approach teaches our dog to respond to us no matter what is going on around him. If he is stressed, uncertain, or protective, he can still look to us for quick guidance to help him through all of these moments.

This whole process does mean creating a new discipline in your already busy life. There is a learning curve, and initially you may feel frustrated and full of self-doubt. But if you just keep with the tasks and weekly skills you are acquiring, quite soon, you will see a new, exciting way of relating and communicating with your dog. This process then takes on a whole new energy. You become excited and curious about the day of training with your dog. You see him respond and look to you for leadership, rather than react on his own. You see him calmer in the midst of stress. You see him making different decisions moment by moment. All these small but important shifts ignite a passion in you to keep going and stay open. Your practice becomes a daily meditation in growth!

I know this program can shift a dog if you follow it. So when there is not strong transformation, we have to look at what is not happening. Where is your resistance? If we can look at our resistance with a curious mind, we can start to change it. Change cannot happen without introspection. When we finally open ourselves to self-reflection, this is when we are ready to guide our dogs to become the balanced, reliable, sound dogs they are capable of becoming.


~Written by Kathy Kear

 

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