Love. Love is the emotion that I have at my core when I approach my animals. They know I love them for the lessons they are teaching me. I love them for choosing to share this life with me. I love them for being who they are-dogs. I love their outlook on life and feel that I can learn from them. I am not trying to change them from being dogs. I am trying to teach them to be the best dogs and they know that. They know that I am not coming from a place of ego but rather a place of love. At least most of the time-I will admit that my ego sometimes shows up but they quickly call me on it. When someone loves you unconditionally you are willing to try harder and fail knowing that they will still love you. Our dogs do this all the time for us but do you do it for your dog? That means, don't get frustrated when they don't "get it" right away. Love them and slow down and show them what you want.
Learning. Stanley has a very cautious personality. Even now, when we go for a walk in a new area his tail is down and he is wary. When he was a puppy I had to teach him in VERY short sessions. All through out the day I would teach him new things for 2-3 minutes at a time. By keeping the sessions short he didn't feel overwhelmed and could feel successful. This in turn made learning something he wanted to do. With me. He is always willing to learn something new with me. All my dogs like to learn. And that means I will never lack for ways to engage with them.
Impulse control. If I could only teach one thing to dogs and their owners it would be the value of impulse control games. This isn't just a fun parlor trick but a way of life in our house. Impulse control is what keeps my dogs safe. It keeps them in the yard, car, house until released. It keeps them from eating things on walks (things that could hurt them) and from stealing food. It keeps them from dragging me to meet other dogs. It allows them to have a rock solid stay. If you have seen my dogs hold a stay in public you know what I mean. While Stanley's impulse control isn't perfect it's pretty damn good and better than most adults dogs will ever have.
Job. My students know Stanley as the "mayor" of doggie town. His primary job is to play and have fun with puppies and dogs. He is a master at controlling a play session. He helps timid dogs out of their shell and shows over the top puppies to tone it down. His job is fun which means he wants to work. By giving Stanley a job he has a purpose in life. We all need that. A calling greater than ourselves. All my dogs have jobs. Does yours? Is it more than "couch potato" or "tail wager when I get home"? If not, give them one.
Relationship. The mortar that holds all these building blocks together is our relationship. Our relationship isn't one sided. He can tell me "no" and I can tell him "yes". He can tell me "yes" and I can tell him "no". We can have a conversation about our needs and desires. The relationship has to be good for both of us or it isn't worth it. For either of us. The relationship holds all the building blocks together. Unconditional love (both ways) nurtures trust, which leads to learning. Learning allows me to teach him impulse control which gives him more freedom in life. And having a job gives him purpose so he isn't bored (which is often destructive) and that makes for a well rounded dog.
Now, I am not saying that we haven't had challenges or bumps during his adolescence. But when I look at my beautiful boy I see a dog who is happy and loving who has learned so much in three short years.
"You don't get older, you get better."
Happy Birthday my sweet sweet Stanley. May you always know how much you are loved.
Your dog is speaking, are you listening?