Puppy training can be the best thing ever or a total disaster.
That's what I learned with my first pup, an adorable Sheltie, named Gracie...And the puppy training mistake that I made changed my life. And since that time, I've seen other good-hearted pet parents make similar heart-breaking mistakes.
Puppy training was the farthest thing on my mind when I fell in love with a little ball of fur… a cute, cuddly Sheltie with soulful eyes that totally softened my heart and captured my total attention every time she looked at me.
With every connection of our eyes, we were also making a heart connection. We were falling in love and snuggling a lot for the first week or so... settling into each other's life and I was goofy in love with Gracie.
What I didn’t know at first was that Shelties bark, and this Sheltie barked non- stop! I adored her precious eyes. I loved playing with her. But once she found her voice, she was constantly piercing my ears and nervous system like having to live with loud firecrackers going off all day and night.
This was loud and chaotic barking. Even in the middle of the night...
She whirled around in circles, adding a high pitch howl with every nerve-racking bark.
My muscles tensed up, my stomach tightened as I tried to make her stop. I was completely frustrated, and after a couple of months, I really regretted even getting this dog.
Because it was my first dog, I didn’t know how to handle her.
I knew there was a sweet dog in her but I had no idea about how to bring that greatness out in her.
I felt totally stuck and completely frustrated.
When Finding Expert Puppy Training Seems Like The Right Thing To Do
Instead of enjoying my new puppy, when I was with her I rocked between being rattled by frustration or feeling totally deflated.
So I took her to a puppy training class where the trainer was all smiles, talked baby talk and said all of the things she thought us new dog parents wanted to hear like love, kindness and that our dogs were all going to be happy and obedient very soon.
The first thing the puppy trainer did was to choke Gracie using a special collar.
I saw Gracie’s terror as she looked up at me. I could not bear to see my innocent little puppy like this…
Everything was in slow motion as I heard the trainer lecturing me about my alpha dog who was dominating me.
The puppy trainer said I had to end this dangerous cycle and get control.
My head was spinning, with every tug on that tiny little neck of this puppy.
I felt agonizing guilt roaring inside me and feelings of incompetence like when I was a child and saw everyone in the neighborhood riding a bike but me. I thought I wasn’t coordinated enough, I didn’t know enough. It was going to be hard to learn. And I needed an expert to show me how.
My mind came crashing back to the training session as the teacher reached down and shoved Gracie into the earth as though this living creature was a stuffed animal.
As Gracie’s shell-shocked eyes met mine, I instinctively scooped her up, told the trainer that this was not for us and we bolted for the door.
At home, Gracie slithered onto her little doggie bed, rolled on her back, begging for mercy.
I sobbed, feeling even more frustrated. And I had mountains of guilt beginning to build in me for putting both of us through such a painful ordeal.
When You Realize There Are Unexpected Solutions
But I was determined not to give up on Gracie or myself…I kept looking at Gracie's sweet eyes which reconnected me to our bond...between a doggie mom and her fur baby.
I loved her. I believed in her. My gut feeling was that this was just a learning opportunity for me. What pet parent is not going to have plenty of opportunities to grow and learn.
I switched back into looking at what I could do and learn and out of the emotions that has surged like tidal waves after the training class.
This amazing dog had not been brought into my life so we could suffer together.
So armed with my love-filled bond with Gracie and loads of determination, I started networking and found a new puppy trainer who my veterinarian said could make a dog dance with joy, while doing what you wanted them to do.
Absolutely no harsh treatment.
The trainer came to my house, played with Gracie, using a little clicker and tossing treats to Gracie.
Then giving me the kind of look a mother gives a child, who she wants to impart the deepest truths of life to…
The trainer said, "you keep looking at what this dog is doing wrong, but your dog was bred for herding. They bark. And they are active and love to run. So let’s teach her some games that herding dogs love so she can use that energy and that ability.
"And the other part is, could you and would you be willing to every time she does something right, click and give her a treat for it? For example, if she sits, click this clicker and give her a treat.
"When she barks, ignore her … because part of what your growth with this dog will be, part of the beauty in this relationship is in working with what is right about her."
"From my viewpoint," she added, "this is an amazing dog, a brilliant dog. You are soooo lucky!”
I couldn’t breathe, my mind went blank and tears filled my eyes.
I looked at Gracie and I knew this was true.
It was a pivotal moment in my life.
From that moment on I made an agreement, not just with Gracie, but with myself to never throw away my values to an 'expert.'
To never give into anything that does not fit with what I know in my heart.
It's no longer for me about "training" a puppy.
It's about bringing out the highest qualities in them and in me.
And staying in alignment with who I am and who I aspire to be as human being. I hold onto my values and don't give that power away to someone whose values don't match mine.
The Big Puppy Training Takeaway
What lies inside of me and my puppy is everything we need to be best friends and to learn, grow and evolve as a team. I want to be friends with my dog.
Have you thought about how awesome it will be as you share life with your amazing fur baby... sharing laughs, fun and plenty of warm snuggles?
I am on a mission to allow all pet parents to do the same thing:
- To find the greatness, the goodness in their dog and in themselves.
- To use the kindest, most compassionate methods and practices that I wish had been available when I met my beloved Gracie twenty years ago.
Raising a puppy becomes a transforming experience for a pet parent rather than another obligation in life filled with shoulds and shouldn'ts.
So with this mindful pet parent, you experience pet parenting in its most intimate and beautiful form.
Mindful Puppy Parenting online classes are my tribute to Gracie...
A way for me to share the most cutting edge science along with positive behavioral practices...and then link that with allowing ourselves to be mindful, to enjoy each and every precious moment that we have with our puppies.
If you haven't seen what Mindful Pup Parenting can do for pups under the age of 4 years old, CLICK HERE and learn more about how it can work magic for your pup. Our specialty is focus, calming and bonding to the moon and back!
My motto is: “Let love lead the way.” So if I can help you with your puppy training, that’s where we will begin.
xo, xo, xo