Life Lessons From My Dog Trainer
Back in November, we adopted Eva. She’s been an absolute joy, and is one of the sweetest, gentlest, laziest dogs I have ever known. Unless of course you have the audacity to be a delivery man, a jogger, another dog of absolutely any size, in any sort of radius to her or make the mortal sin of being a stranger who is either carrying a bag or not picking up your feet when you walk. Then she is an insane beast. This will not do. We hired a dog behaviorist.
She is expensive. Really expensive. But, Eva is making a lot of progress. Random pedestrians can now pass by with no fear of losing a body part, and I’d say she walks at heel about 60% of the time. We still have a long way to go (especially in the “other dog” department) but I am really proud of her progress. As expected, we realized that while Eva came with her own host of neuroses and ingrained bad-behavior, my own anxieties aren’t helping my pup. I should probably be in human therapy, but since this trainer is really, really expensive – I’m improvising.
Some of what I’ve learned:
- Slow down and pay attention. Stop racing to keep up with the dog, or anything else. If you do things calmly and deliberately, they will be done well before you know it. Just slow down and breathe.
- If you start off behind, you’ll spend your entire walk trying to catch up. Take the time and patience to make sure you are starting off on good footing, with all the tools you need. Otherwise, it’s just an unproductive race to keep up with the lead dog, and you will be dragged.
- Don’t rely on treats. Food isn’t the only form of praise. Liver treats (and Girl Scout cookies) work in the short-term happiness, but for long term success there have to be other forms of praise.
- Don’t be afraid to test the boundaries once you have the tools. Sure, I could just spend my walks turning around every time we see a person, dog or suspicious looking mailbox, but once you learn how to handle situations, you should try to confront them. Not recklessly, not without a game plan – but sometimes you have to walk towards the things that scare you.
- Speak slowly and clearly. This one will help me on everything from presentations to calls with my Grandma.
- When you’re anxious, everyone feels it. There’s only so much I can do to hide it. I really need to calm down and focus before my interactions with people and canine alike. Infusing situations with nervousness, fear and anxiety isn’t doing anyone any favors.