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We think of dog training in pretty simple terms most of the time. The trainer teaches, the dog learns and that’s it. We see dog training as a one-way street upon which a trainer imparts guidance to a dog.
That, however, is a great oversimplification. Though it does describe the way a dog’s life can be improved through good training, it doesn’t remind us of another wonderful benefit of training.
You see, in reality dog training is an interaction. And in any interaction, all parties involved take something away from the experience. In the case of dog training, the dog does learn appropriate behaviors. He, however, is not the only learner in the process. The dog trainer also gains from the interaction.
The advantages to the canine half of the training duo are clear. There are advantages for the human, too, which are pretty obvious. In the end, he has a fine companion with whom he can develop a great relationship.
The owner also benefits from having a “good” dog, one who doesn’t destroy his property or try his patience at every turn. These are very real benefits and should not be disregarded or trivialized. However, when one closely examines dog training, they find that the teacher gains even more from his interaction with the canine pupil.
Owners gain insight into their own personality during the training process. They find their weaknesses amplified by their pet and their personality strengths underlined. They may learn that patience is not their natural strength and that training forced them to be more considerate and calm.
Alternatively, they may learn their threshold for frustration was actually higher than they had imagined. These lessons, learned through interaction with a dog, are transferable into other segments of one’s life.
For example, the trainer who has successfully worked with a problem dog may find it easier to deal with a difficult client or employee - they have learned that they can be patient and see a situation through without “losing it.”
Owners also gain insight into what they really want from their life. There was a reason they sought a dog as a companion and a reason why they spent the time and energy necessary to train that dog.
Their interactions throughout training can inform their perspective on self and personal motivation. They may find a new realization of how much they appreciate life and can learn a great deal about friendship building, as well.
There is of course, the tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes from training a dog to consider, too. Training requires a commitment over time and a willingness to give of oneself a great deal.
A trainer may reflect on that experience and discover a selfless aspect to their personality of which they had previously been unaware. Tapping into that component of the personality might spur them to undertake other positive activities.
When one realizes they have successfully completed a long-term task, they may better understand their innate ability to set goals and to achieve them by acting consistently with those goals in mind. Dog training can become a great example of what one can accomplish with clear goals in mind.
Training dogs is not just about teaching “sit, heel, and rollover.” It is about working with and interacting with another living being over an extended period of time. It is about giving instruction, of course, but it is also about receiving wisdom.
Thinking of dog training as merely the enforcement of rules and expectations simply does not do justice to the wonderful process. There is much more to it, and there is a great deal a trainer can learn from both his dog and the training process itself.
Dog training is more than an exercise in learning and understanding for a dog. It is an exercise in learning and understanding for the master, too. There is a lot we can learn from our experiences with dog training if we expand our perspective on the matter to include all of the wisdom and understanding acquired throughout the training process.
A broad perspective on dog training shows it to be a remarkably valuable enterprise for both the pet and the owner.
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