I have always loved dogs. Whenever there was a family function or a gathering at a friend’s house, I always spent time with their dogs. I would pet them for hours. I watched any program on TV involving dogs from dramas to documentaries and training advice shows. I borrowed books on dog ownership from the library. I used to draw dogs all the time. Of all the things I have drawn in my life, I’ve drawn more dogs than anything else. I dreamed of owning a dog but my parents never obliged. While everyone praised my artwork and I pursued a career in the artistic field, I had a secret dream: I wanted to be a dog trainer.
I was quiet about my dream. After all, I had never owned a dog. All I knew about them was from time I spent with other people’s dogs and what I’d read in books and seen on TV. I knew that there was more to training dogs than could be absorbed through books. Yet I still sought information and spent countless hours on dog-related websites and Internet bulletin boards soaking in as much information as I could. Still chiding myself for having such a foolish dream.
Then I adopted Risa. I was thrilled; I finally had a dog of my own. I wanted to get started with training right away and get her into competitive sports where I could test my mettle and skills as a trainer. I soon found out that I had been right all along: experience is the best teacher. Books and second hand knowledge are a valuable asset but there is nothing like having to apply what you know (or think you know). Risa, bless her heart, was more dog than I was ready to handle. As I’ve said many times before, I was in way over my head with this dog. Looking back, however, I know I would not have learned as much as I have about dogs in general, dog training, and *this* dog had it been different. Risa has been an amazing teacher and opened up a world of dog training that I would never have found without her. My skills at reading dogs, clicker training, working with fearful dogs, patience, canine freestyle, etc. would never have been utilized if it hadn’t been for her.
I started assisting training classes and had a blast. After several lay-offs including one rather long one, I became involved with a group that helped veterans train their own service dogs. This gave me even more experience working with dogs but also gave me more experience training people to train their dogs. I also held a training session with the rescue group I work with and enjoyed that immensely as well. Still, I couldn’t call myself a dog trainer.
I wanted to teach classes. I wanted to develop a course and share my knowledge with others. I had tried and failed to get a class in canine musical freestyle going several times. Each time I tried I failed. There wasn’t enough interest. My dream would come so close to coming true only to be crushed in front of me again. I almost gave up completely. But I persisted. Last Thursday, I taught my first dog training class. It’s an 8-week session teaching people the basics of canine freestyle. I was totally on Cloud Nine after the class ended. My students were amazing and I think each of their dogs has incredible potential as a dance partner. I cannot wait to see how they all progress over the course of the class. On top of that, they were engaged and excited about the sport. I couldn’t ask for more.
Now I can call myself a dog trainer. It may have been a foolish dream. . .but it still came true.