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Posted on 09-02-2016
Puppy Training: After All This Time
I was about 10 years old when I saw my first dog obedience demonstration at the mall. I remember seeing those dogs run full speed ahead, then drop to the floor to lie perfectly still, with only the subtlest of hand commands from their owner. As I watched, I became entranced – these people had such an unbelievable bond with their dogs!
I knew then and there that this is what I wanted my future to look like.
Sharing a passion for animals with my mother while growing up, I'm grateful for that day she took me to the mall, and even more so for her encouragement as I eventually pursued an education in Veterinary Medicine. Working towards, and achieving, my R.V.T status, I realized that there's much more to this animal-person bond than I first anticipated.
I remember being in a clinical lab once, working with a dog who had no "owner" or real home. While I was happy to be able to get first-hand experience of canine anatomy, he was happy just to receive the attention I was giving him. My heart wept. I didn't quite have the words for it at the time, but a million thoughts and feelings flooded my mind: how was this making him feel? What was he thinking? Is he scared? And, above all else, why and how could he have this absolute trust of me, a total stranger?
From then on, I started thinking about our relationships with our pets a lot differently. Not wanting to be just an "owner" or "handler", I began to advocate more for stewardship of an animal. Our responsibility isn't just to train a dog at any costs; it's to take care of, nurture, love, and understand them, despite both language and species barriers. It was also around then that I decided to find some of the answers to my initial questions through training in animal psychology and behaviorism.
Fast forward 30 years from that first day at the mall. I'm so proud that all of my training, courses, continued education, and hands on experience allows me to help new puppy parents reimagine their relationships with their pooches. Being able to understand, read, communicate with, and be the voice of our furry friends is something that genuinely makes me happy.
That dog in my lab had no reason to trust me, but he did so unconditionally. The love and respect you have for your pet should match this. Take the time not only to train your dog to your commands, but to train yourself to really understand your dog. Attend classes, talk with other your vet and other, and just spend a good amount really seeing your dog for who she or he is.
They'll say thank you with each and every little tail wag!
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