I find myself congratulating my dog on the smallest victories, a command understood correctly for the first time or a sequence repeated without a flaw for a few days in a row. But, this morning my temper flares up and Nali’s ears fall back. She stares timidly at me waiting for the next command. I spend the rest of the morning kicking myself for my lapse in patience as I try to focus on my work.
I have taught my dog to sit, stay, heel, come and fetch on command. The process has made me more steadfast and disciplined with each step forward. Nali has shown me the the effect of greeting people with a smile as well as how to forgive your best friend despite their inability to communicate effectively. I have to read books, watch videos, reread books and watch videos again just to make incremental headway. Nali can’t read a word, yet teaches much more complex lessons. Here are my reflections after a year and a half of dog training.
I didn’t realize when I bought my a dog I had entered into an endless game of charades. The game has provided many moments of frustration as well as excitement and pride. My dog and I practice commands for weeks, steadily plodding forward on the right track, only to experience periods in which I glare at my partner as she fails to comply with a command we have been drilling for months. I have studied a wide range of material by dog owners who have played this game before me, but Nali can’t watch the videos. And, though the dog in the video may understand a new command perfectly well, Nali’s patchwork of lessons, practiced in college apartments and warehouse parking lots, lead her to interpret it entirely differently.
The charade will continue. It will become more complex as I introduce more distractions, which will create new challenges and opportunities. It seems as dog trainers we can only hope through the ups and downs of the process we communicate how much we care to our dogs and know that in this realm we are not the master, but small victories are worth the effort.
Thank you for reading,