Do you have any pivotal moments in your life that shaped the way you do things now? I think we all have those moments, people in our lives, incidents etc that leave a big enough impression to change something about us, something about what we do and how we do things. We are after all products of our past.
I want to talk about two such moments that shaped my way of training dogs perhaps more than anything else. Both those moments happened a long time ago, some nearly 40 years in fact, in my teenage years. You see, my dog training journey started when I was 14, when I started taking a neighbour's dog to dog training classes at the Kynologische Gesellschaft Winterthur which was on the other side of my home town in Switzerland. At 16, I started teaching those same dog training classes... was I the youngest ever dog trainer teaching classes? Perhaps.
Anyway, one of my trainers and mentors at the KWG once said the following to me which has always stuck deeply in my mind... Now, let's be clear, I am very much an introvert by nature. Ask me to dance about and be silly in normal life or at a party, I will flat out refuse, it's just not what I am comfortable with. However, put a dog in front of me to interact with, all of that goes out of the window... and it may well be because of this one trainer that one day said to me "when people watching you think you have lost the plot, you are doing it right". My clients hear me quote this so often! In other words, be an extrovert when interacting with your dog, don't worry about what other people think, think about what your dog enjoys and just do whatever it takes to get your dog interested and engaged with you! Isn't that just the most amazing advice? And it is so very true, isn't it.
And there is a second person in those early years of training dogs that has also left a long lasting impression that I still carry through in how I teach and how I structure my classes. I remember that I was asked to take a class for an absent trainer (I think that's actually how I ended up teaching classes). Classes back then were huge, up to 30 dogs in one class if I remember right, though it was outdoors with plenty of space; not something I would do these days (I prefer small classes), but that's how it was back then. One of the members came to me after the class and said that they really enjoyed it and it was more fun than with their usual trainer. Now the other trainer in question was a perfectly good trainer and I am certainly not posting this to put anyone down (I can't even remember who it was, there were many of us), however, it pointed out to me how important it is for the owners to have fun too and not just concentrate on the technical side of training our dogs. And I have carried that with me and made it part of my teaching style ever since.
I am so lucky to have had many superb influencers along the way that have helped shape me into the dog trainer I am now (that's perhaps another blog for another time), but these two experiences very early on in my dog training journey, that are still as fresh in my mind as if it was said yesterday, certainly were profound enough to build the very foundations of the dog trainer, teacher and indeed person I am today.
So to cut a long story short... Remember when training dogs to be fun both for the dog in front of you as well as the owner. Forget about what other people think, as long as your dog gets it, as long as your client is happy, that's all that matters. We know, and science backs this up, that we all learn better when we have fun. And if you need help with that or any other dog training issue, give us a shout. We're happy to help in person or online!
See a video here of my young lurcher Elijah and I adding training into play!