Monday, June 14, 2010


Earned not gained. Grows if given, shrivels if neglected.

We tend to overlook this important aspect in training and living with our dogs. Trust is something I think that we take for granted or in many cases misinterpet an animal's willingness to work for us.

I’ve been watching the agility workouts at 4-H this last week. The kids are having fun, the dogs are loving the attention, but what seems to be missing in many is the level of trust between the teams. So many are just going through the motions. The teeter for example. So many dogs do it but hesitate. Or are overly concerned that their humans are going to allow “that noise” to happen. They just don't trust their handler to do it without concern for what might happen.

So in small group this week, I talked about that. And at my side was the perfect example of trust gone wrong.

I have a big blue dog that adores me. Loves Meredith. Begs for butt scratches from Alec and a dog seriously distrusts the world around him. I unfortunately trusted him to someone, thinking they were long time dog people, and would do right by him as he went to puppy camp away from his siblings for a time. Trust is something that I have now learned not to give as freely. What returned a few weeks later was a young dog who found the world to be too much to handle. Every corner might contain a boogy man. Four years later it breaks my heart to see that fear in his eye.

Things keep popping up with him. You go months where you think you are on the right track, he’s learning to push the envelope open and trust that the next thing that crosses his path is safe. Mostly he has issues with people. I think that’s worse then objects. Though, as I was putting up the door on the training building, it’s an automatic garage door opener, he wanted to bolt. Get as far away from that evil thing as he could. I don’t have an automatic garage door, never have. He's fine at home with doors opening, garage door closing, fans running. But this noise he knew from somewhere else and he lost it.

So now I have to go looking for that missing piece in his puzzle to form a better picture of him. I’m beyond sad. During the evening, with only 3 dogs in this class, he became less concerned. Better able to adapt to the noise, the other dogs passing by(never really an issue with him) but the running of the people was almost too much. After an hour of reassuring, treats and TTouch, he was doing long downs, off lead and comfortable with the other people walking around him. We went home with him trusting his outside world a little more. Because of the bond that I do have with him, this was a good experience for him, he became grounded, so to speak, so much faster then if he didn’t trust me.

Trust with our dogs is so important. You see it in their willingness to attempt something new, even thought it could be super scary. Or the joy in that learning. The “what’s next mom?!” bounce in their step. We have to remember that one little incident can ruin that for years. It makes training harder and longer. It makes small events into horrible markers in time.
Beyond the training, the socializing, treats, hugs and love, we need to remember that we have to instill trust into our relationship at every step of the way. It can so easily be stolen away by others, so it’s important that we put extra into that aspect of our dog/human relationship.

later gators....


Sharrie said...

Sounds to me like those 4-H kids have a great experience with you. So do the dogs, your and theirs. Glad there are people like you working with kids.

Cindy said...

Thanks, I've been doing this for 10 years now and I think the best part is watching them grow up over the years. No wait, the best part is when they find that they miss training nights and have to come back and help!