During this spring/summer I’ve had a lot of client visits and many of them will ask, “You must really love what you do, working with dogs.” The truth is that I do, even more than I like working with police officers from all over the world. But during a client visit out of town, I began thinking about that statement while I was driving but it wasn’t until I was taking an assessment walk with their dog that it dawned on me – I love what I do, but why?
This is actually a two-part answer. The first answer is that the best thing about helping people with their dogs is that the dogs are happier and in a healthier state of mind. When they finish with the session they are smiling and less stressed, calm & relaxed, and I often hear, “I’ve never seen them like that before.” And the dog’s state of mind is really important but I always say that I knew the dog could do it, I’m really there to help the human with canine leadership.
So the second best thing about working with dogs is that I get to help the humans. It occurred to me that when I am working with the canines I snap a photo showing them in their element; calm walking, smiling, happy, snoozing after the session or a picture with their owners walking them with a loose leash. It’s that last element there that began my thought – why aren’t I taking before and after pictures of the owners’ faces?
The simple answer is that I don’t wish to put them on the spot when they’re not in the best frame of mind. Their reality is that their dog(s) are misbehaving and they are at the end of their rope because they don’t know what to do to fix it. Their faces are strained and drawn and they often are frustrated with the whole thing and half of the time they call me as a last resort (either because other training didn’t work for them or that are on the verge of having their dog removed and euthanized). That’s a lot of stress!
The most amazing transformation takes place in the humans (remember that the dogs could ALWAYS do what is expected) toward the end of the session when they are able to not only walk their dog with a loose leash but to also manage behaviors easier in other areas of their lives. THAT’S where the “before & after” pictures would really be remarkable. Calm, confident humans walking their dogs. Controlling unwanted behaviors with less stress. And a relaxed continence while having FUN! Which is what walking with another being should be.
Practice walking with leadership for the dog’s sake. They are happier and have a healthier state of mind when they are where they belong in the pack because they are not confused/tense/frustrated with their human counterparts. Be a teammate with your dog, but be a team leader. Tactically speaking, a team leader will dictate what the team does and circumvents or changes poor decisions made by team members. Our dogs should have self-control over themselves and as such will be easier to manage. But if you aren’t leading then you are a follower.
Why do I take the picture at the end? I want the humans to have a different reality and I post it on social media so their friends and family also have a different reality. Am I going to take pictures at the beginning? No, that would serve no real purpose because what we want is change and moving forward, not a comparison of what the past represented and staying there; that’s what got us to the problems in the first place.
Until next time, stay calm and keep moving forward!