Pigs and Dogs
Someone recently asked me “Why would you train a pig?”
Good question. My immediate response was, “because it’s fun”. Then I thought about it some more. And realized it’s primarily because I love animals, I love a challenge and I love to learn. Which is why, after 14 plus years, I still love training my dogs. My very first mentor was a brilliant field trial trainer. Among the myriad of lessons he taught one was especially relevant. John was arguably this country’s number one amateur field trial trainer. He was considered a “professor” of the sport. He never stopped studying, learning, evolving and pushing himself. He encouraged me to train with other people and attend seminars. His first question was always, “what did you learn?” While he was a “professor”, I became an avid “student” of dog training. He taught me to have an open mind, a curious mind. To think outside the box, and constantly strive to be better at communicating with these exceptional creatures we call “dogs”. He taught me that dogs just don’t think like we do. It’s up to us to think more like them and that there is never just one way to train a dog.
He taught me responsibility. It is never the dog’s fault. We choose to train them, to compete with them. We come up with crazy “rules” they need to follow. It is ALWAYS our responsibility when something goes awry. Believe me, I’ve done it more than a few times. Blamed my dog when something went wrong. But after mulling it over I would always realize it was, in one way or another, my fault. Often caused by my inability to clearly and effectively communicate what I wanted or my inability to honestly read my dog.
Thanks to John I am always experimenting, always seeking a better way to train my dogs. Sure, it’s easier to rely on what has worked before. After all, if it’s worked before and with some measure of success why change it? And risk failing? It’s just easier to keep on keeping on. It is, after all, called the “comfort zone” for a reason. BUT…what if your training and performance could be even better? More fulfilling and build a deeper relationship with your dog? More successful? And not just in terms of titles and ribbons, but that amazing, incredible feeling of connection. Knowing you understand your dog and your dog understands you. What if you can provide information that is more clear, more fair, more consistent? What if your training can create a relationship that results in a happy, relaxed, confident dog in life, in training and in the ring?
I have learned from field trainers, obedience instructors, behaviorists, ring sport trainers, freestyle instructors, agility instructors, nosework classes, training partners, horse trainers….the list goes on and is filled with names to numerous to mention. I have been blessed to learn from some of the most talented trainers and competitors in the country. And the more I learn about dog training the more certain I am that I have only begun to scratch the surface.
That’s why I train a pig. And why I still love training dogs. I love the challenge, I love to learn and I love to experiment. I have a better relationship with each succeeding dog knowing all the while it can get even better. For me, it really and truly is about the journey.