Some insight into the mind of a trainer...

        What’s this? Two posts in a week? Yes, I’m on a roll... But you might not feel that way for long.

        As I’m nearing the end of my program I have been reflecting on the past two years, and there’s something that is sticking with me, and the more I think about it the more I see it reflected in myself as a trainer. So here goes.

        When I was applying to the nursing program I was excited. I had spent the last few years of my career as a massage therapist, just looking for the joy; I wasn’t in to it anymore. Ask anyone who’s been self-employed for long and you will hear many times that our time is not our own. We don’t get a regular 9-5 life, even if that’s the hours that our businesses run. I love having grooming and training and selling raw, but running two businesses being self-employed was just too much. I needed some security in my life again.

        So, I was excited. My mother knew I was applying, but that was it. I hadn’t told the rest of my family, and I hadn’t told my friends; I was afraid of the “what-ifs”. A few years before I had applied to the Midwifery program at Laurentian, and hadn’t gotten in (3000 applicants for 30 spots – not surprising), and because I chose not to reapply the following year there were a few people that saw that as a drastic change in direction; It wasn’t. I’m just plotting a new course to get to the same goal.  After that experience of people being so nosey in my business (ie. well, WHY didn’t you get in? WHY aren’t you applying again!?), I decided it was none of their business until I had firm plans. Shortly after applying to the nursing program I was speaking with a family member and telling her about my plans to go back to school; she berated me, and scolded me. I’m sure she thought she was telling me “positive” things, but it was painful to hear, and I ended up leaving much earlier than planned that day.  The result of that few moments of conversation has been the dissolving of thirty years of a close relationship. I no longer trust her, and while I am civil –nice even- at family gatherings, I don’t go over to her house or seek her out any longer. I hope that we can repair the relationship, but it will take time. I’m sure she thinks she knows all about my life from what I post on Facebook, but that’s another matter for another day.

        Now, I promised you this would be about training, and it is. I talk a lot about the relationships we have with our dogs, but as an instructor I’ve never given much push to how our actions affect these relationships. Every action we take with our dogs has consequences. We get to choose how that plays out based on what our actions and reactions are. We can spend a lifetime building trust, but it only takes a single action to break that.

        We’re human; we screw up. But before you correct your dog for something they did or didn’t do, ask yourself if you’re sure they understood you. Did their physiological needs override their training (ie, if they voided in the house, or chewed something because they haven’t gotten the exercise and mental stimulation they needed)? Is cleaning up a little pee worth damaging your relationship with your dog?

        I want to see my students succeed, no matter what we’re teaching. We all try to do the best we can with the knowledge we have, and we can’t live in the past. If you’ve made mistakes –and we ALL have, - learn from them, and move on. Forgive yourself for not understanding your dog’s needs in the moment. Make a promise to them that you will better learn to listen to them, and most of all, give your dog a voice.

        We can spend a dog’s life supressing their voice, or we can spend their life learning to listen and understand that voice. I choose to teach my dog an appropriate way to ask for things, and room to show me their loves and discomforts.

        What will you choose?

© Shari Joanisse 2019