People Minding Dogs
It reminded me of how awful a dog trainer I had been at 15 or 16 years old, when I got my first dog, a Sheltie named Alicia. I was inexperienced and filled with all the wrong knowledge about training dogs. Alicia wore a choker chain and I used it. Being a sheltie, she was extremely smart, so I didn’t use it often, but I still used it more than I should have (I would never use one now). What must she have been thinking? How did it make her feel? What cues was she giving me that she was afraid?
Much to my shame, I tried to use these techniques on my brother’s dog, a Chow-Lab mix named Remy, right around the same time. I remember taking him a walk around a lake in our neighborhood; a place frequented by runners and other walkers. Remy was strong (and still is at 14 years old!) and hard to control on a leash. I thought using his choker chain to excess would teach him to “heel” like it had for my dog Alicia. It didn’t. But, what did happen is a gentleman, who happened to be walking by and who had been watching my “training techniques” with Remy, made a comment. I don’t remember the exact words he uttered to me over 20 years ago, but I do remember being ashamed because he was right – I was jerking the dog around and it was not the way to train a dog. Why do I share this story? Because we all make mistakes as new dog owners (or experienced ones), but it is up to us to try to do better. To learn how to be a good dog owner. To do our research. To understand our dogs. To treat them with kindness and respect. They trust us implicitly. How can we not do our best to learn training methods that bring out the best in our dog – and ourselves?
The words spoken by that one man were enough to make me want to learn how to do better. I have learned a lot, but I am still learning. There is so much our dogs can teach us if we just watch and listen.
I recommend reading Colleen’s blog. I think it has some powerful messages for all of us dog owners – new or not.