A Note From A Trainer: Why I Love Dog Training
Sammie Here. As I was reflecting on how the first quarter of the year has gone (thanks, taxes), I started to truly think of what brings me complete joy (Thanks to my coach, Dr. Katie Henry)... and how lucky I am to have found it: Dog Training. It's not because I get to tune out to the reality of the world around me. In fact, it's the complete opposite. To be completely honest, I think of dog training as a complete relationship with your environment, your dog(s), yourself, and nature.
Working a dog requires all of my energy: emotion, focus, compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and body coordination. Working a dog allows me to zoom in and zoom out at the same time to get the broad scope of what the situation is at hand. All while in that very moment having to absorb energy from the dog and push energy back as they absorb mine. It's like the best adventure possible every time I schedule time to work a dog...even if it's the small strip of grass in the backyard. And I must say... Shout out to Sam for being my Partner with dogs and in life.
Some may see dog training as just "sit." "stay." "heel." - yet I experience it (and many of my drive-training friends and colleagues will agree) as a complete meditation where I have to be on a team with the dog in front of me and in some cases trying to bite the sh!t out of me. Working a dog requires me to: be with my impatience, my perfection, my vulnerability, my fear, my excitement, my happiness, my insecurities, my joy, my security, my body, my mind, my breath...and the dog's fear, anxiety, aggression, triggers, trauma, recovery, movement, satisfaction, and milestones. That's a lot!
In drive training, we work with the dog's natural instincts to form a strong bond with their human, build a trusting relationship so they feel they can give you all their energy (even that deep, dark stuff that they've felt shamed, guilty, or emotionally shut down during in the past). We teach the dog how to move in-sync with you and "dog" first...That deep, dark stuff is bound to come up (and thank god, so we can turn that into flow). And when it does, it's like magic. They trust you enough to be direct and you turn all that past trauma into movement, "hunting", play, and a neutral ground. Their energy isn't suppressed - it's expressed. You're the key to helping them see the light in what once was complete darkness. What an honor. The dog loves you so much and truly trusts you to shape in the obedience - because it's all part of the "hunting" game of drive-training with their teammate. "Wow." I always say that to myself. To top it all off, what a privilege it is to talk to the owners of these dogs and explain what's happening from the dog's point of view.
You get down to the roots of the dog and the owner: connection.
Every time I grab the leash, it's an emotional and connected experience...much like my yoga practice. I hope yours are like that too :) The training is complex and requires skill, but that's not why it keeps me in the moment. It keeps me in the moment because I feel alive, in-sync, and whole with myself and the living being in front of me. It's mindful movement and practicing a mindful lifestyle. To fully connect and move with another living creature using the most primal instinct (prey drive) to give them coping skills (soon shaped into obedience) with a highly stressful domesticated world... is like the best yoga practice ever.
In the words of Nahko Bear, who usually sparks a flame of inspiration, "What is your medicine?" and for me, I can proudly say: "Working dogs is my medicine." I can feel my feet, and they feel grounded.
Gratitude and Love to:
- Sam for being my partner and the best co-founder/trainer ever... I wouldn't have it any other way.
- My animal-sheltering journey in Vermont and starting to dive into training and the emotional roller-coaster of working in an animal shelter with my dear friend, Pie Wichmann.
- My 3 rescue dogs and their crazy behavioral problems for leading me to Ben Draper, Leah Twitchell, Kevin Behan, Heather Mach, Jeannie Oakley, Mark Shuart, Tammy Johnson, Deborah Rubenfeld and so many more of you.
- The Corbo Family for helping to make Dog In Neutral possible.
- My Mom for saving all my art projects growing up in grade school... my 8 year old self reminded me that I wanted to be a dog trainer.
- My sisters for getting excited and being supportive with my dogs, my journey, and my passions.
- My Dad for always being an animal lover and passing that onto me... and for always having me surrounded by dog training.
- My past, present, and future clients & dogs... for making me feel so alive and happy every single day.
So much love -