Zen and the Art of Dog Training

As a new dog owner I had little idea how complicated dog training would be. Not that it is impossible, it just takes a lot of hard work and patience. So, just like many things in life really. The difference between this and other choices you make in life is that there is no backing out, unless you want a whole world of pain in the future. With other choices we make there is always the chance to start again later. If you miss a few weeks of running, you can start again. It might hurt, but you can still do it. But with dog training, if you miss part of the fundamental training when they are young, there could be no going back.

Our boy Zack was ill for a couple of weeks and his training was interrupted after his first lesson. Believe me it was worrying, both the illness and the delay to his training. Lesson one was not exactly a raving success He seemed to enjoy himself, but paid absolutely no attention to me as I was screaming and shouting his name from the other side of the training field. No big surprise there of course, it was a new place and a new experience. It just meant that when the delay to his training came, it was a bit scary to think about what we might have to deal with.

I am happy to report that both his health and his training are back on track. Each week we are seeing progress, small steps that are adding up and becoming significant. The incredible thing for me is how much concentration and precision it takes for the owners to succeed too. You watch the trainer and it all seems so easy, then comes your turn. I could swear that I am doing the same thing as him, but Zack certainly disagrees. The smallest changes to tone, hand position, or timing can cause the process to falter.

All this can become frustrating, if you allow it to. This is where the Zen comes in, patience is required, frustration is your enemy. Focus on what is important, don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Trust the process and your dog will trust it too. But, like many times in life, when you are tired frustration can fight its way to the surface, then you can let yourself and your dog down. We all make mistakes, move on and get back to focusing on the work, it is probably not the end of the world.

One thing that I can confirm is that it is most definitely worth getting a trainer and sticking with it. I was full of ideas of being able to do all the training on my own, and at the very beginning I think that this is fine, you can learn a lot from YouTube. But, once that puppy becomes a young teenager bounding around your home, the professional touch is most certainly worth the investment, both in time and money.

If you are currently training your dog, then my thoughts are with you. It is hard work, and you will occasionally feel like giving up. But stay Zen, focus on the now, and we can all get to the end of the road and have a happy, well-behaved companion.

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites

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