Month: October 2016

Dog Obedience to Dog-Human Cooperation

Rio and I, we are more alike than I knew. Similarities appear across our species’ barrier. “You get the dog you need.” It’s a statement I have heard before, but it takes on new facets of meaning as our time together lengthens.

We have joined an obedience club, and boy do I feel out of place. This is no TAGteach environment. They say they use something called positive reinforcement, but it’s a harsher brand than the one to which I subscribe. I joined because I wanted to learn about it. I wanted to learn obedience exercises and become familiar with the way people move in the show ring – obedience, agility, rally, rally-o; it’s all new to me. It sounded like a fascinating way to further explore the depths of our relationship with our dogs. New learning motivates me strongly. I had been feeling restless, in need of a way in which to grow.

Sometimes you learn best by jumping in. Sometimes you fail and have to pick yourself back up out of the mess.

Obedience? Really? Couldn’t you pick something more fun?

I’m sure there is a way to keep obedience lighthearted and fun, to make it a positive experience, a safe place to learn from each other and from our dogs. I’m sure there is a way to ensure that Rio enjoys the experience, that he gets lots of goodies and doesn’t get scolded or jerked around. There has to be a way because that is a part of who I am and it comes with me everywhere, inside every experience into which I venture with my pup. There is space within this structure that feels so rigid now, space for pup and I to move and learn with ease and joy.

I joined the Beginner Obedience class. I am well aware of Rio’s struggles with highly stimulating environments, in part, because they are my own struggles as well. Kavir points it out sometimes when we enter a busy restaurant. There is panic for a moment in my eyes. I try to hold it in, to pretend that it doesn’t phase me when I don’t know where to order, where to stand, but there are so many people, so much bustle. On top of all that, there are decisions to make about what I will eat and drink! Take a deep breath. Come back to your body and out of your mind. As I am able to relax and feel at ease, Rio will join me, lying down by my side to nap in trust and peace.

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Who We Are As Dog Trainers

Over three quarters of the way through Karen Pryor Academy, I can hardly believe how fast it has gone. I have nothing but positive things to say about the program. I will be a little sad when it is over. I love the structure and the support, and I hope I can find a way to stay in touch with my classmates.

I share some reflections after the third workshop:

Treat pouch view

I see us all here casting about, trying to settle on who we are and who we will choose to be. We are making decisions about how we want to live and about what’s important to us. Laura leads us by example, being unapologetically who she is – a dog trainer, yes, but also a TAGteacher, a master costumer, a gamer, a geek. “I am an unapologetic geek,” she announced on day one. She has a story for everything, and shares uninhibitedly. As for me, I have to shape my way to unapologetic. I can’t be and act one way – afraid, always adapting my styles and comments to what I think is acceptable, caring what others will think of me – and then suddenly shift to not caring, to just being how I am. For me, it takes a conscious effort – an awareness that fades in and out.

I am on the path to shaping longer and longer stretches of awareness, longer states of flow. In the flow state there is no inner dialogue about the moment; we just do what we do, we flow with what is. When we train it happens if we let it, then we work as a true team. Rio and I have fun! We are both goofy and excitable. I laugh easily and he makes me laugh often. When we get to that state, we are a partnership – a dog-human team. We connect across language barriers, across species, with feeling, joy and love.

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