Since our training, I’ve been thinking about what my ultimate goals are for Silas. The truth is, while you read nearly miraculous training stories, those things are not a guarantee. Not even “if I just work hard enough.”
I could hire every coach that money can buy. I could practice four hours a day. I would still never be great at swimming. I’m short and the wrong body shape. I’m not naturally athletic. Now, does that mean that I have to resign myself to the kiddie pool? Of course not. If I really wanted to, I could swim laps, even pretty good ones. But what if I were twelve, and my dad was the only one who cared about me swimming on the team? I really wanted piano lessons, but instead I had to relive someone else’s childhood dream? How good would I get at swimming, then? (Note: this is an example, not a childhood trauma. There wasn’t a swim team in 100 miles of my school.)
I try to keep that in mind when I think about dog training. Is this a significant investment of time, money, and energy, just to do something that makes my dog miserable?
It’s hard with a dog, because you can’t exactly say, “Hey, do you enjoy this at all? If we worked through a few things, would this be awesome?”
That’s why I don’t have goals like, “Take Silas to next year’s Pet Expo.” It’s possible that in a year, with a lot of work, he could tolerate it. Maybe after a year of work a miracle would happen and he would even like it, who knows? But it’s not a goal that’s about the dog. It’s a goal that is about ME ME ME, and how I want to do X, Y, and Z with my dog.
I think it’s most useful to look at this from the other side. What does my dog like to do?
–go to the park
–sleep on the sofa
–chase birds off the patio
–meet quiet, friendly people (he will voluntarily seek out people who don’t scare him)
–play with dogs
Now, what are his obstacles to enjoying those things?
–not having good play structure, so sometimes the humans get frustrated
–being afraid of cars
–leash pulling (getting much better!)
–reacting to sidewalk noises
–being scared of loud, fast people
–being much better with dogs than with their people
Fixing those things would be a bona fide improvement in Silas’s quality of life. So, that’s what my “big picture” goals are.