If you asked someone whether they would like a short cut to a desired outcome, I suspect the majority would say yes. Some are more impatient, whilst others have a higher tolerance with waiting. As with most things, we all have a vision of how something ‘should’ turn out or look like, and what the journey will feel like along the way. When preempting, we more often than not forget about the bumps and misdirection we will experience along the road. The experiences that although uncomfortable, create more growth and understanding than just avoiding challenging emotions or situations.
When I initially attended my first few dog training courses, I envisioned a successful training business, helping every dog I came into contact with. I also believed that I would be able to create the ‘perfect’ dog out of Halli.
Halli came to me at 6 months old, from a family of 4 children, 4 cats and 4 dogs (or so I was told). I never saw any of the litter mates or parents, instead, I naively accepted the guardians story of how they had come to have her. At this point I was a kennel maid wanting my own dog, not considering the implications that could be caused by not knowing anything about her history. I took her home and eagerly explored ways I could give Halli a better future than she once had.
I took Hal to obedience classes, which we both enjoyed and rekindled my interest in dog training. I found a business enterprise course with the Princes Trust, which encouraged and supported me to start my dog walking business. From here I took online courses in dog behaviour and holistic health, and attended various dog training courses in the country.
Despite training Halli to perform tricks and basic obedience, responding to around 25-30 words, she has to varying degrees shown fear towards people and can struggle with initial greeting periods. This is not what I had imagined would happen, yet I feel that this experience has helped me empathise with people who have a reactive dog. Being a qualified dog trainer, I felt like I failed somehow along the way. She is a dog that loves cuddles (you should see how happy she is when she gets to see her Nanna!) but through a mixture of her unknown history (she came to me with a burn on her ear), my lack of knowledge at the time and uncontrollable factors, Halli can be anxious with new people.
With the first hand experience of the frustration and tears that having a dog with problems can bring, it allows me to not only explore ways of deepening my understanding of what influences dogs to behave in certain ways, it also expands my holistic approach to improving the dogs experience and increasing the owners self confidence, facilitating the growth of their relationship. By taking responsibility and using positive methods in helping Halli increase her confidence, I can work through her fears, at her pace. Giving Halli and other dogs that I work with time, I can discover what works for them and deliver a personalised approach. However, with my continued learning in behaviourist training (difference between dog trainer and behaviourist here) it is important that we accept that there are uncontrollable factors of our dogs behaviour (biological chemistry and health, and history prior to having your dog etc). Training is still important in shaping a well behaved dog, however the general responses I observe in Halli in particular situations, demonstrated that it is not a complete training issue.
Inviting Halli into my life has guided me in so many new, exciting directions, which without her I don’t think I would have ever ventured down. Above, you can see her taking in two essential oils which aid in her feeling calm (perfect for this firework season!). That is just one example of how we can help our dogs cope with anxiety, pain, stress or excitement. Halli has taught me patience, love, and the acceptance of the process. She may not be the confident dog with perfect obedience I had envisioned, instead, she has been the perfect dog taking me on the journey of discovering how I can develop my holistic understanding of dogs and our life experience with them.