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Blog Lessons from a non-dog owner

Lessons from a non-dog owner


Last night was the first night of my new venture with Dundee Dog Training (Jess Probst).

They are educational walks for small groups of dog owners over a 6 week period. Jess handles the dog behaviour and owner training, and I support the owners with their anxieties and by providing someone safe and supportive to talk to during the walk. They can be a bit like a mental health walk sometimes. 

Jess is to dogs what I am to people. She is a Master dog behaviourist, not just by a piece of paper (which she has), but in the way she understands where dog behaviour comes from. She is different from others in her field and great to be around and learn from. I’m very different from other therapists. I see the person and not the behaviour and often don’t follow the same approach as others. 

There were a few interesting lessons for me from the evening (to be repeated again tonight!)

Jess is a Master trainer

Jess has a chow chow called Tu-si. I call her a teddy bear dog and love her to bits. She’s like a mini Buddha - totally chilled, and very attached to food. I’ve known her since she was a pup so she always says hi. 

On the walk there was a chow chow. I’m used to Tu-Si. In my mind, another ‘Teddy bear’ dog was on the walk. I was wrong! Until I met this new dog I had no idea what an amazing job Jess has done with hers. This new dog was aggressive, trying to bite everyone and every other dog and pulling furiously. At one point I went to help with the slip lead and it went for me.

This was not what I expected.

And I realised I had taken Jess’s skills for granted   And it was only by seeing a different example I could see how remarkable her work is. 

It’s the same with me and my clients. I can never explain why I’m different or even how I help, because what I do is totally different to the way anyone else works. It seems too good to be true and goes against everything we believe about needing months and years of painful therapy, even then only to *accept* a slight improvement. People need to take a leap of faith with me and with Jess. But it’s worth it.

People find it hard to accept change

The second lesson I learned came from existing clients of Jess’s. She has other trainers and experienced clients on the walk so we can all help the new owners with the practical application of the exercises. I know little about dogs so whilst I’ve picked up a few things from Jess, I’m not the best person to advise on specific dog behaviour.

We were speaking to the existing clients after the walk and asking how it felt to have the best trained dog there? They laughed nervously and said they weren’t sure about that. Even though their dog was amazing. It was hard for them to see how much had changed even when all these new clients were back where they used to be. 

I have the same thing with clients. The problem with the brain is there is no before and after. The brain also only changes by doing stuff, not by thinking stuff. I task all clients with being curious, and noticing changes. They don't even have to do anything to make the changes happen. They just have to notice it! But that is really hard when you have been so focusssed on your struggles, to recognise things are changing. These clients were the same. They knew their dog was very different and they could acknowledge it, but they couldn't quite state that things were OK now. It amused me when they assumed, if they didn't keep attending, that the dog would revert back. They had no belief in themselves. And that takes time. It takes time for my clients to realise things are different. And often time is not enough. Often it requires an event to happen that shows it so clearly - like me meeting a Chow Chow that has not been trained by  Jess. The difference is obvious and undeniable. 

So the hardest thing for me is to help my clients notice the changes in between sessions. In fact, I can't. All I can do is task them with being curious and looking for differences (not those things that are the same). The rest is down to them. 

Jess can help you understand your dog and why it behaves the way it does. She can teach you how to manage your dog and get you to a place where you enjoy time with your dog. But you have to do all the work in between the sessions.

I’m looking forward to seeing my Teddy bear dog Tu-Si later and giving her a fuss without being bitten!

You have to practice and notice and be curious. Ask questions. Be self-aware.

Nothing needs to be the way it's always been. 


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