The bond created between dog and handler is something that is unique to that dog and that handler. In this post, our friend Jen of Vom Haus Huro has shared with us some of her inner wisdom and thoughts in regard to the teamwork, training and goals set forth for her dogs and herself as a trainer, handler and owner and what that means in terms of approach. Enjoy!
There will come at least one time in life in which you will be faced with a decision in training. A moment or series of moments that can and will shape the future of your training plans and, in most cases, form either a base to build upon for the future or a derailment of training that can take you months to fix, if you are lucky enough to be able to recover from it at all. Everyone will have an opinion on your issue(s) and advice will flow at you from all directions. Which, if any, you choose to follow will ultimately decide your fate and that of your dog.
I believe that the most important thing is to consider who you are as a trainer, who your dog is as a dog and what your ultimate goals in training are going to be. There is always a lot of talk about drives and thresholds. “Oh, my dog has unbelievable pain thresholds”, followed closely by drive. “My dog has true fight drive”. Everyone is quick to brag about what their dog has and what it is. What is of even greater importance, however, is what the dog is NOT.
There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Each and every dog could have a little less of one drive and a little more of another. Each dog could be more balanced in a particular area and each dog will respond differently to different types of training. Focus first on what your dog is NOT, improve it to the best of your abilities in that area and then consider your next step at that point. When you put your dog on a pedestal of perfection, you forget to work on those small cracks that, in time, become large craters to your progress.
Another very important aspect is who you are as a handler. Be honest with yourself about your abilities and your commitment levels. Remember that your most important job as a handler is to protect your dog. You set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations on what is acceptable both from your dog and from those involved in the training with you.
I have seen people whipping their dogs with wooden dowels for a cleaner heel and to me, that is a line I am not willing to cross. Will they be getting better scores than me? Perhaps. It is entirely possible and more than likely probable that they will beat me, but there are no points in the world that are worth enough for me to do that to my dog. That is a line I have drawn as a handler and one that my dogs and I can all live with. That is what training boils down to. A relationship with your dog or dogs, based on trust, forged over time and tempered with time spent, miles traveled and trials faced together. Stay true to who you are as a handler and as a team. Stay true to your dog and the relationship and bond that you have created. Stand firm in your convictions and your beliefs and do not let the popular (or unpopular) beliefs persuade you to do else-wise. The leash is in your own hand. Not that of your trainers and fellow competitors, but yours and yours alone. You hold the responsibility right there in your palm. At the end of the day, it will be you and your dog(s), and you alone have to sleep with the decision that you have made. I hope you make good ones, my friends, and that your dreams are sweet.
Yours in training and sport,