Guest Contributor: Ashley Majetic- Steel City Weight Pull Club.
Many of you that follow Jay Jack and his style of work with dogs, all know how infamous he tends to be with his awkward “one-liners”. Well, during one of our many in depth dog training discussions, I got another one of those quotes that just kind of “stuck” for me. For a multitude of reasons, having a well-rounded relationship with your dog is a big deal to me.
Throughout my time working with Jay, and my own dogs, I’ve come to see the value in it and why I think everyone should have a fundamental concept of HOW to incorporate it when training. I can talk all day about how weight pull is driven by having a healthy relationship with your dog, but I want to know WHY. When teaching my weight pull students, I encourage that bond, that mutual respect that has to develop. Most people want quick results, an instant connection….…but remember what I said about those “one liners” that stick at the beginning of this blog? Those references that make you think twice, or get a little uncomfortable?
Well, here it goes….
“building a relationship with your dog… yep, just like dating.”
For a moment, it seems ridiculous. It seems like the two of them don’t have anything in common, and that can’t be “training”. Teaching a dog owner how to build or craft a good connection with their dog is a hard concept for some people. It is for me, I’ll be honest. I want to help everyone achieve what I have learned how to do the past few years, but putting it into motion is tough. SO… if you think of building a relationship similar to dating someone you like— it is much easier to grasp.
The formula is simple, really. Find something your dog loves… if you don’t know anything- then you start there. Find things they love to do and become interested in them as well. DO those things with your dog and enjoy them. Be present, be with them, and have fun. My dogs love to hike, to be outdoors and exploring the world they live in…. it’s awesome, because I do to. We do those things together…we enjoy each other’s company.
Building a solid foundation takes work, and it can’t be rushed or forced… “dating” takes work and effort. It isn’t one sided either. You will find that if you give it an honest try, your dog will notice.
I’ve studied under Jay for a while now, and I recently revisited an old blog of his that seemed to truly fit what I preach all the time. It’s worth mentioning again, it truly is- it’s THAT good. Relationships on all levels, human and animal, are focused around a few things. Some of the most important include Connection, Communication and Commitment (similar to what you look for in someone you are interested in “dating”). Funny how they end up being very similar, isn’t it?
“Connection” contains three simple factors; Love, Awareness and Respect. Suzanne Clothier says it best, “Connection is about two minds working together. If the connection is not there between you and your dog, you will be unable to direct him, help him or really train him.” Awareness or being aware of your dog will create respect, and a mutual respect at that.
Communication needs to be clear. You need to mean what you say and say what you mean. This works both ways, for you and your dog. I haven’t met a dog yet that can speak English, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate with you- you just gotta pay attention. Use the feedback they provide you and help them learn to understand you.
Lastly and probably the most important is Commitment. In order to have a stable, healthy relationship, you need to be committed. It will take time and none of this is easy, because every dog is different.
Relationship is key in just about every avenue in dog training, even if it isn’t weight pull that you are into. It makes for the most consistent reward you can offer your dog. One hundred pieces of kibble won’t mean as much as the heartfelt “good boy” pat on the head, once you begin to solidify that relationship. Building a relationship with your dog is easy really, it’s kinda like dating………
well, it’s exactly like dating.
Written By: Ashley Majetic