When I met my husband 20 years ago, I wasn’t eating a ton of vegetables. I wasn’t avoiding them, but he chose to eat a lot more of them than I did. Therefore, he decided that I didn’t like vegetables and he often told people this random fact.
And then, over the years, I started eating more and more vegetables. Now half of my plate is normally vegetables, and I pile a big helping of salad on top of that. This change came on gradually.
To the point where it became rather common to be sitting at a table with guests while my husband told them how I don’t like vegetables – yet my plate would be overflowing with them. Our guests would look at my plate and appear puzzled, but my husband never really looked for himself. He had already decided that I didn’t like vegetables. Indeed, I even pointed out my enthusiasm for vegetables on occasion, and still, he saw those episodes of vegetable eating as an anomaly.
To this day, if you ask him, my husband will likely say that I don’t like vegetables, and evidence to the contrary does nothing to change that.
The fact is, once we get a belief in our heads, it can be really hard to look at the situation critically, even if there is massive evidence to suggest that a change has occurred.
How about your dog? Are you training the dog that you have; the one that is sitting at your feet?
Not the dog you thought you had; rather the one who actually exists today, with all of his experiences, training and maturity?
Yes, that dog.
Is that dog really the one that you started with? Or are you training a dog that has long since moved on?
Maybe today is a good day to look at your dog and ask yourself…is it time for a change?
One key thing that separates experienced trainers from more novice ones is exactly this issue. Experienced trainers are constantly testing, evaluating and progressing – are you ready for this? How about this? What happens if?
Today I let Brito do some problem solving on his own. Historically I have not done that because it shuts him down and he will opt out of training if he is not supported. But he’s a different dog now, and I need to remember that, because that’s my job as a trainer.
What are my options? How does he respond? Will this approach progress my training without sacrificing any of the qualities that I have worked so hard to nurture?
Brito handled it fine. Which doesn’t mean I should get carried away and change our entire program, but it does mean that I must continue to evaluate and be prepared to re-consider what I had believed to be true. What dog do I have now? Today? In this place? With these exact set of circumstances?
Brito will always maintain a fragile core, but it’s no longer fair to call him a fragile dog. It is more accurate to say that I need to make sure that he is handling whatever training I am providing with his happy and confident demeanor intact.
I cannot change my dog’s genetic temperament, and I am well aware of our various ongoing challenges, but I can certainly accept, admire and appreciate his ever evolving self. The fact is, Brito’s temperament now includes every training session, every social exposure, and every experience that he’s ever had. It’s my job to make sure I’m training the dog that is standing in front of me and not the one that I brought home a long time ago
Train that dog. The one in front of you.