Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What I Learned in Dog Training

Service Dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do, Training Session...Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr
I try to be a good dog owner, a.k.a. pet parent. Trust me, it's a lot of work.

I think one essential part of being a good pet parent is training my dogs in basic obedience. Thankfully I have help in the form of group dog training classes at my local pet store.

Funny thing is, while my dog and I attend together, I'm getting the feeling that class is really more about training me, the pet parent, than it is about training my dogs.

For example, I got some useful feedback that the tone of my voice wasn't conducive to training. Seems I sound cross when I give my poodle Brunswick commands in class. Apparently the instructor heard me asking him to do things using something closer to my "Bad dog!" voice.

To show that I do pay attention in class, let me share with you that the proper way to ask a dog to perform a command is to say it using a soft, sweet, high-pitched, happy tone. You know, the excited "Good dog!" voice. Unfortunately, knowing this and doing this are two different things.

So while I listened and accepted this helpful feedback the instructor gave me, I found myself immediately connecting to how tired I was feeling in the moment.

After all, class starts with me already feeling fatigued from just getting there. Then factor in a whole hour being in a small classroom space filled with 8 dogs and 8+ owners (sometimes both pet parents come to class). Oh, and don't forget to add all the standing, walking and sitting on an uncomfortable stool. So really, for me, attending
dog training class means completing an hour-long physical, mental and emotional endurance test I chose to put myself through in the hopes that it will benefit me and my dogs.

So of course I am sounding grumpy by the end of class when I am wiped out on multiple levels, ready to take the next two days off to recover and frustrated when I ask Brunswick to heel for the twelfth time and he's just not doing it.

All things considered, that's still good feedback from the instructor, and something I need to think about when it comes to other aspects of my life. I mean, if I am sounding irritable in dog class, I can only imagine how ornery I sound when I am at home and having a bad fibromyalgia flare-up day.

I guess you could argue that those around me should understand when I have a bad day and have the presence of mind not to react to my pain and fatigue-induced bad mood. But after that feedback, I had to wonder: if my dog stops listening to me when I am grouchy, how do the humans in my life react to disagreeable me, either consciously or unconsciously? Do they stop listening, roll their eyes and wish I was in a better mood?

Plus what effect does using a crabby tone of voice have on me when I listen to myself speak?

Which leads me to contemplate a really big picture question: do I really want to be using a grumpy tone of voice and be potentially setting the stage for things in my life to go in a grumpy direction?

Isn't it amazing the things I learn in dog training? Good Selena! What a smart girl I am...

O.K., so can I have a treat now?

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