As I hung up the phone, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit helpless. The scenario was one that I faced all too often, a frustrated owner calling for advice on how to handle their dog’s behavioral issues that were now getting out of control. I knew the answer of how to change the dog’s behavior, but the owner didn’t have the tools yet to create this change.
I thoroughly enjoy helping people create great relationships with their dogs! Dogs have enriched my life in so many ways. My relationships with my dogs have not only taught me some important things about myself, but they have also taught me many lessons that have helped me create better relationships with the people in my life. One of these lessons is the importance of good communication. With good communication, potential challenges melt away. Without it, small issues can become monumental!
Let me illustrate this. For 25 years I made my living raising and training reining horses. One day I asked one of the ranch hands to take a blue bucket of minerals out to the broodmare pasture down the road. This particular employee was a hard worker and very dependable. However, there was one challenge. He primarily spoke spanish and knew very little english, and I spoke english and knew very little spanish.
The next day when I arrived at the field, I found that our expensive blue roan show mare, who was supposed to be inside the heated barn, was now outside in the broodmare pasture in the middle of a January snow storm with a summer haircoat and no blanket. Bewildered, I caught the mare and took her back up the road to the barn. Through further investigation I found that when I had asked our ranch hand to, “take the blue bucket of minerals out to the broodmare pasture” what he had heard was “take the blue mare out to broodmare pasture.” This is a perfect example of how without the ability to communicate clearly a seemingly small challenge can turn into a much bigger problem.
This is what I was dealing with on that phone call. The frustrated dog owner and I could communicate just fine; however my ability to help them with their problem was greatly hindered by their lack of ability to communicate with their dog. The family loved the dog and they usually enjoyed everything about him EXCEPT this one issue. Often these “one issues” become so large and out of control that it threatens the dog’s ability to have a good home.
As we can see, the ability to communicate well with our dogs is of the utmost importance! That is why we make it the focus of our courses. The truth is that it is easy and fun to develop a solid foundation with your dog that is centered on communication. It doesn’t take hours of additional drills or coaching. In fact, it takes less time to set this foundation of communication than it does to try and fix problem behaviors down the road if this ability to communicate is not established. A little time well spent developing our three lines of communication (visual, verbal, and physical) will pay off in big ways later on. They will allow you to have simple solutions for otherwise enormous problems, and allow you to enjoy every moment with your dog for the rest of your time together!