……its time to feel empowered again!
I had an amazing weekend, the weather was shinning, I love working with dogs and I had some amazing 121 clients to see!
One particular conversation really got me thinking. It was with a fantastic owner who had been struggling to connect with her dog and as the dog is now older its affecting general training and recall.
As we chatted several things came up that I find a common thread amongst dog owners but also that I have experienced personally in the past with my first dog and I decided to write this blog post to address them.
- I know I am to blame
- I feel I am letting my dog down
- My dog is aged X,Y,Z and it should be ________________________ (insert personal issue there such as, running off lead and recalling, comfortable with other dogs, sociable with people etc, etc, etc)
- I feel awful about past trainers I have visited or choices I have made for my dog in the past
Too many dog trainers lay blame at the owners’ door. Whilst it is true to say that it is the owner who needs the training to learn how to train the dog, this by no stretch of the imagination means ‘it’s you, not the dog’, to say that is totally disempowering to owners. Nothing exists alone and it is the partnership between dog and owner that needs the work and there is no blame to be laid in that.
I am a child in a family of 3 children, we are all entirely different beings with entirely different drives and motivations, my parents have done their best to raise us on the knowledge they had whilst trying to understand us as individuals, for anyone to turn around and say that they are to blame for anything in our lives simply isn’t true.
As long as an owner is doing the best they can with the knowledge they have &/or seeking to expand their knowledge to problem solve what more can they do?
So please, dog owners who are struggling, stop accepting the blame, it is not yours to take on.
I could literally bet my last £ on who says this, it is NEVER an owner who is letting their dog down. I could also be my last £ that whoever is saying that is actually doing everything in their power to help their dog with whatever issue there is and they have probably already been through many trainers and training protocols and are just feeling lost, it is often this lack of knowledge that leads owners to feel they are letting their dogs down.
So please, dog owners who feel you are letting your dog down, lack of knowledge does not make you guilty of this. I am sure most of you that identify with this number 2 section give your dog the best of every care in your power, you just need to be kind to yourself as you work through the learning maze that is dog ownership.
Part of the conversation I had with my lovely client involved expectations, feeling like their dog had reached some kind of milestone age and should now be ‘all sorted’, it was comforting to her to hear I have a 3 year old that I don’t allow off lead currently, when we go her as a puppy I lost my soulmate dog and spent a few months completely depressed then I broke my foot in a bad way and it took months and months before I could resume walks and probably nearly 2 years before they were what they are now, proper long lovely walks, where I can go over unstable ground and not panic about my foot etc. Because of this my youngster missed out on vital socialisation and recall out in real life. I work her on an extender and use this to work on recall and good social choices etc.
Every dog and story is different, my last girl had all the time and training anyone would want to be able to give, she is amazing, she has won numerous breed awards, competed at Crufts in Obedience Semi-Finals and has a 2nd in BASC gundog at Crufts along with numerous other accolades such as featuring in adverts for household names and is trick dog titled as a Champion. She has the same owner, me, as the youngster who is far, far behind her in training, that youngster has had a very different life journey. I do not measure my youngster by the dogs that have passed before her, I measure only our own journey together, I massively celebrate what for her are huge leaps but to any of my other dogs would have been barely a tiny step on their ladder of success.
So please, dog owners stop comparing, know that everyone, including you, is walking their own journey and learn to slow down and appreciate what your journey is offering you in terms of learning, and opportunities to celebrate, and celebrate them hard!
I have been there, done that and worn this T-Shirt for some years in the past. A truly unpleasant and traumatising experience to place your trust in people that advertise themselves as experts only to have them do something to your dog that’s aversive and have that leave its mark in your dogs’ mind and indeed your own. I had visited trainers in the past who claimed to be positive then threw something at my dog and more and I carried much guilt about not walking out of certain sessions or believing what I was told would help my dog when my heart and soul wasn’t comfortable with it. It isn’t pleasant but you live and learn, it isn’t your fault when you have done your best, researched and in my case even spent 2 hours on the phone with a trainer trying to confirm that were not using aversive methods only to find out you’ve once again gone to the wrong place for help. You cannot change the past, you can only build a better future.
So please, dog owners put down your guilt, you’ve enough on your plate without pilling on some of that bitter-tasting guilt, guilt is one trip not worth taking. Instead, focus on what you have achieved, look back often, and if you feel you look back enough make sure you look back some more because I could bet that you don’t see enough or clearly how much progress you have already made. Be kind to yourself and fill up your metaphorical gratitude jar often!