Train the Dog You Have; Not the Dog You Want
Our First Place Protection Trophy
So I was chatting with a new friend the other day.
I was mentioning that my dog is “perfect”!
I mean she is 6 now and many of you have seen her progress through training videos as she has aged.
At a little less than 2 she was titled in both obedience and protection work and soon after titled in dock diving and agility.
She loves kids and people, protects me with every breath, cuddles and does all that I ask.
Yup she is perfect!
Perfect for me!
Ironically my new friend has a dog with the same name as my dog, so we can’t help but giggle and compare.
But we both love our “Furys”!
Hers is a year and mine is of course 6.
And, she said she had a trainer who says “Train the dog you have, not the dog you want”.
I Was Confused
I have to admit, I was confused at first.
I had to read it a few times and then ask “WTH”?
So let me share both of my “takes” on that statement!
Train the Dog You Have
So many people (especially those who want to compete in competitive sports) get so wrapped up in wanting a “specific kind of dog”.
- One with more energy
- One with less energy
- One with more toy drive
- One with less toy drive
- One with more confidence
- One with less confidence
- More protective
- Less protective
- More loving
- More independent
First off, I want to say; you can’t replace a dog with another dog.
I have had 8 Malinois over time, and NOT ONE was anything like another.
They are all individuals and have had unique and special qualities none of them even closely resemble another.
You know, I think humans are like that too, you can’t replace your mom, your dad or your first love with something that is exactly or nearly the same!
And, all my dogs have intrinsically loved something different.
Some have simply loved obedience.
Others would rather do protection work.
And, some just love to swim!
I had one who would throw himself into a puddle if he could. The bigger the splash, the happier the dog! Sadly I didn’t know about or have access to dock diving at that time! He would have simply loved it!
The truth is, unless you go through hundreds of dogs (which I think is despicable) you don’t get to choose.
You train and love the animal you are given, or the one that you choose, or the one that chooses you.
Over the Years
I have been dealt:
- Dog aggressive dogs
- Human aggressive dogs
- Fearful dogs
- Independent dogs
- And dogs that want to please
And, none of it was a product of “me” or my training.
Find the thing or things that makes the dog that you have GREAT.
Don’t constantly try to change him.
You can change his bad or negative behaviors, but you can’t fundamentally change HIM.
Embrace who he is!
Find things you love doing together!
Heck learn something new like nose-work, skijoring , weight pulling, or even lure coursing.
The dog world is endless when it comes to sports you can play with your dog!
Now to the Second Half
Now on the second half of how I took that statement.
You have to train your dog to be the dog you want.
Dogs don’t magically become great companions overnight.
Like I said above, you can’t “change” who your dog is fundamentally.
My Belgian Malinois is never going to be like a Golden Retriever no matter how hard I try, but he can be the best Belgian Malinois HE can be… If I train him and work with him and mold him into a good companion for me.
I mentioned the “independent dog”, that is him.
He has no real desire to please me, he likes doing things that make him feel good.
But I can work with that!
I know how to control his environment and the things he loves in order to convince him to do what I ask.
He is a challenge for sure, but a challenge that I enjoy.
He is so much different from any other dog that I have had!
So even though I can’t “change him” or make him like the things that I like.
I can train him to be the best companion he can be for me, and search for sports and hobbies in which he excels.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.