Dog training is a tradition that is passed down from one trainer to another. It is still mostly an oral tradition that is shared from one generation of trainers to the next. I have been very lucky to have been taught by some truly excellent trainers. I studied under each of my teachers fervently learning their training approach as thoroughly as possible. I would obsess over every detail and nuance of their technique and approach to training. Learning these technical training details didn’t always come easy to me. I would spend lots of time frustrated, feeling very uncoordinated, and struggling with the timing of responding to the dog I was working with. There were many days where it felt like I was all thumbs! But eventually, after hours and hours of practice, I’d have breakthroughs in my skills and begin to flow with the challenging techniques. At these moments the connection between dog and handler intensifies to an almost tangible level. To this day there is nothing as satisfying as the bond experienced with the dogs that I train.
My personal training technique evolves and shifts over time, even to this day! When I learned different training styles from my teachers I worked to emulate their technique and form. Over the years, each of their methods informed my training approach. My style became a blend with the best approaches rising to the top. Some methods are suited to almost every dog, while others only work with certain dogs. I call this knowledge my tool box. Over many years my tool box has grown quite large, with a wide variety of training skills filling it.
An old adage in dog training exists that the only thing 2 dog trainers can agree on is what the 3rd dog trainer is doing wrong. Sadly, this is still often true today. Many trainers turn on each other, attacking other trainers style, technique, methods, philosophy, and equipment choices. In my opinion this intensely critical atmosphere is harming the evolution of dog training. One of my great pleasures in life is watching another trainer work a dog using different approaches than what I would choose to use. I am always intrigued as to where they learned and what past experiences are informing their current method. I am forgiving to even the unskilled trainers that I observe, knowing that all trainers share a love for dogs, and that all trainers skills will grow over time.
All dog trainers are a part of a tradition that goes back thousands of years all the way to the first dogs. There is literally nothing new in the world of dog training that hasn’t been done before, in a previous age. Even the most cutting edge dog training techniques of the modern age have been used by previous generations of bygone eras. From ancient Pharaohs’ of Egypt’s hunting dogs, to Roman dogs of war, to farm dogs of Europe, to sled dogs of North America, to dogs of the Far East, and everywhere else imaginable, all trainers have one thing in common– we are part of a continuum of people that keep the ancient tradition of dog training alive and well throughout the ages.
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