I was talking with one of my students the other night after class about Risa. His 7 month old puppy is dog reactive and he’d asked for input on training and on my journey with Risa. I told him that dogs like this will teach you more than any other. I told him I wouldn’t be anywhere near the dog trainer I am today had I started off with a dog like Kyu instead of Risa.
And that got me thinking. I often thank Risa for forcing me to accumulate this knowledge and to make me constantly rethink what I’m doing, change, and grow. What I didn’t really think about until that moment, however, was how my journey with her set me up perfectly to continue my journey with Kyu.
Kyu is not Risa. For better or worse. 😉 He’s silly, fun, playful, intelligent, sensitive, and a joy to work with just like Risa. But he is “differently motivated” than she is (plus he’s confident and loves everyone). He doesn’t like a lot of repetition, finds stationary behaviors less fun, loves movement-based tricks, and thrives on play and interaction. Training him is much different than training Risa who is quite content to work long sessions. . .even on the same thing. Whereas Risa presented a great challenge in behavioral modification, Kyu is challenging me more in teaching the actual behaviors.
Had I gotten Kyu first, I would have probably failed with him. Even though he’s a comparatively easy dog, I didn’t have the skills I needed yet to train a dog like him. Firstly, before I got Risa, I would never have imagined me owning a sighthound since they’re typically believed to be too independent or unmotivated to train. (FWIW, Risa is far more independent than Kyu.) I also didn’t think of dog training the same way I do now. I would have been frustrated by a dog like Kyu who doesn’t fit into the typical training mold. And I certainly didn’t incorporate a lot of play in training when I first got Risa! That’s something I had added in more recently in her training.
While I still sometimes get annoyed that training him isn’t quite like what I’m used to with Risa, I also relish figuring out how to train what I want with similar methods but in different ways to get it to work better for him and get the results I want. This helps me but it also helps my students who may also have dogs who don’t perform as well with the more standard methods I’ve used to train some of these behaviors.
Even the “easy dog” isn’t easy. Every dog presents his or her own challenge!