The Learning Curve is Powerful
Beep Beep Beep Beep…
“Shit!! I’m so sorry honey!”
Melissa smiles, flips over, squeezes Sammy our Shih Tzu at the time, and goes back to sleep.
It’s 5am in Marlton, NJ. The year: 2008.
I was excited like a kid on Christmas morning for this day. I woke up at 5am and now, so was Melissa :(.
Coffee check. Dog food check. More pacing - double and triple checking. Phone charger… CHECK.
The “bad touch mobile” - as my less-cultured friends called it - was packed and ready to go. White cargo vans get such a bad rap.
That day, almost 8 years ago - CRAZY - I embarked on my first cross country road trip. A man and two ill-behaved dogs on a quest for knowledge. This was the first time in years that I had someone I trusted to run my day to day operations. Big ups to Catie Lewis, one of the most special - trustworthy - hard working people I know. With her at the helm I knew our client’s dogs were safe during my educational adventure.
I was making the first financial investment in my education as a dog trainer, $2000 bucks! Up until that point I had been walking dogs, lots and lots of dogs everyday, and getting some guidance from a cool lady in NJ when I ran into a “what the hell do I do here situation.”
I had been in business for three years now, and I was excited to learn more. My customers are my number one priority, and I knew I could give them more.
I have always been fascinated by what makes animals do what they do.
Why a dog chooses to lay in a certain place? Why does that spot make them feel comfortable?
Why do some dogs bark more often with their owners than with me?
Why did she pee over his pee? Or lift vs squat?
Why are certain dogs chilling downtown and others wanna kill their imaginary shadow friends and everything else they see?
I wanted to make life clearer and simpler for dogs, which makes a better connected relationship with them. I’m compassionate to their canine situation. When I was 21, I was lost in Paris for hours wandering. No way to communicate, and not much compassion for my situation from the locals.
Anytime you can communicate with a being in a way that makes sense to them and respects their psychological perspective, trust and mutual respect aren’t hard to get naturally. Check out this book “The Five Love Languages” for some useful insights on understanding love and the way different beings need and interrupt it.
When a Parisian citizen finally showed compassion to our situation, I can remember to this day the feeling of relief from my stress. She took the time to understand our situation. Remember this wasbefore Lyft or Uber. :)
After this first educational adventure to learn about dogs, my brain went into education overload.
Trips to Florida, California, eventually moving there to work at The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers, local dog events, trips to Utah, New York, online classes, books, shelters and rescue volunteering, Youtube, and every Dog Whisperer episode I could watch. I spent copious amounts of time working with some of the best trainers in the world over the last 11 years. Literally some of my friends are world champions in their respective sport or skill. I have soaked it all in like a sponge - quietly.
What Have I Learned?
Long and short leash techniques - electric collars - high level obedience skills - pinch/prong collars - sport work - choke chains - flat collars -martingale collars - harnesses for drive building and for walking nicely - nutrition - I’ve worked with a few super talented horse trainers - biking and rollerblading - nose work - tug play - clicker and marker training - free shaping - certification after certification on philosophies and methodologies.
I’ve have been truly blessed to learn from the people I have. I understand fully how lucky I am. And to those teachers thank you sooo much for helping me and guiding me. You have all assisted in fine tuning my bullshit meter. When you learn from intelligent, thought out, doers of the work it makes spotting fake swiss cheese dog training really easy. More on social media dog trainers in later articles.
But after absorbing all of these skills, techniques, and methodologies, I still felt an internal restlessness.
I still had questions I needed answered!
Then, about 3 years ago, the skies opened like a ray of sunshine through dark storm clouds.
I saw this video. I think my exact response was…
That makes so much sense. Maybe a few more curses and OMG’s! I curse a lot. I’m pacing myself now so not everyone unsubscribes right away.
How come no one else knows this stuff?!
No one is teaching this?!
What the hell!! Where has this info been all my life? Could dog training be the problem?
If a dog could talk, I think that video tells their side of the story!
The quote Brandon used in that video that made the greatest impact on me was:
“Dogs expect us to think like them, and we expect dogs to understand what we want.”
That can’t be more true. I hear statements like this daily, “ I give my dog all this love - toys - affection - walks, but I still struggle to get them to do what I want. I give him fill in anything here so he should know to do what I want.”
What I found after all my searching, digging, driving, and questioning is that most people struggle to solve canine problems because they use human thinking.
I believe people think it’s more humane to treat an animal like a human. I hear things like it’s more thoughtful, fair, scientifically proven, and all the other things the scare tactic dog industry marketers prey upon so you’ll spend, not get results, than spend more. There is no money in fixing the problem. I can’t wait to share my article on that topic. Get ready Petsmart!
Stay on task Gary - okay - what I have found over time is that these well-intended strategies aren’t engaging dogs the way dogs think. And to go further, in my opinion, these strategies show total disrespect for canine psychology as a whole.
Why do we interrupt the way they think? What’s wrong with their language? Where is our compassion to learn their side before we bark orders at them?
I’ll extrapolate further. I’ve always wanted to use that word. :)
Dogs have their own motivations and emotions in their lives that need to be met and understood. Sleeping, eating, joy, play, concern, rest, physical touch, etc. are motivators for dogs and their choices. The more I was “educated,” the more I was taught to interfere with nature's energy flow.
Make him sit first before he eats.
Wait for him to calm down before he goes out the door.
Send him to his bed when people come in so he doesn’t jump.
One time when I was at Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center he said to me, “If I gave you a dolphin what would you do? “How would you care for it?”
“Ummm…not sure exactly,” I said.
I could barely finish before he said, “Exactly. You have no clue. Why don’t people take the time to learn more about the way dogs think. Why do we assume we just know what they need?”
In the video I linked to above, Brandon is right: dogs can only think like dogs. If we don’t take the time and appreciate how dogs communicate we will struggle to gain the intimate bond we all want. In my opinion, this bond can’t be created unless you take the time to learn the perspective of your dog.
What do you think?
How often do you observe your dog and let them teach you? No talking, no interfering, just observing your dog being in the moment with you?
Hit reply, I’d love to here from you.