by Melissa Viera
Dog training has always been about listening and communicating. It does not matter if we do not speak the same language with our words as the animals we are trying to talk to, because if we learn to listen they will tell us all we need to know, and if we learn to communicate in a gentle and consistent way, they will understand. Animals will teach us to be completely honest in how we communicate. You can never lie to an animal.
Animals teach us how to focus. You can be in a conversation with another person while thinking about everything but the conversation, but try training an animal while distracted and you will soon learn that the animal will not tolerate that kind of carelessness. Animal training has never been about the animal. It is about how you, the trainer will communicate and listen. You must learn to be one step ahead of the animal while remaining present with them all at the same time.
When you are training, time slows down, and you learn that every action and every move matters. The way you deliver rewards, where you place your feet, how you tell the animal where you want them to be and how you respond to the animal when they are uncertain, are all essential skills.
You have heard it said many times, especially if you are in the training community, that animals are the best teachers, but what does that really mean? How often do you honestly leave a training session thinking about everything that the animal has taught you? You are more than likely thinking about what you accomplished and how much you taught the animal, instead.
As a trainer, or as anyone that spends time with animals, you must take every opportunity you have to listen and focus on what the animals teach us. Learn to communicate honestly and gently with animals and learn to focus while you are training and you will begin to see how flawed a relationship is if you do not do these things. When working with animals there is a lot more going on than just training and everything you learn will spill over into life outside of animal training.