In our stressful, fast paced, technology focused, concrete jungle world, many people crave the warm bodied, devoted companionship of a dog.
Technology has made it easier than ever before to find, buy, and rescue dogs, and purchase services, equipment and gifts for them. Technology has also made it easier to discover information, courses and discussion groups about dog training and behavior.
Technology has also made it much easier to avoid putting any of that learning into practice.
To get the dog you want, at some point (your dog suggests sooner rather than later), you must peel your eyes off the screen, engage with your canine friend and practice the skills you’ve been learning about.
In the beginning it may go very badly. That’s why it’s called ‘practice’. Nobody is an expert at the start, but your skills, and therefore your dog’s manners, will NEVER improve without thoughtful practice.
You see, constant online learning can be an incredibly effective form of well intentioned procrastination.
Because you feel like you’re making progress, learning from and connecting with others with knowledge and similar experiences, you can’t bear to drag yourself away from the screen, especially when on the odd occasion you do actively work with your dog – it’s a disaster.
The thing is that “knowing” what to do is NOT the same as being motivated to act on the knowledge, nor does it give you the physical skills to actually be able to do it. Those things need practice too.
Your dog needs YOU. YOU are the one to develop a shared communication system; prevent behaviour you don’t want; teach the behaviour you do want; enrich, socialise and exercise your dog. Not only are these your obligations as a responsible owner, they are vital for forging that wonderful bond which was the reason you got a dog in the first place. Wasn’t it?
Strong relationships, great obedience and social behaviour don’t emerge from constant: ignoring, scolding, confinement, freedom, or gifts. Occasional unfocused contact or a training session for an hour a week are equally unsuccessful. Your ignored or scolded or confined or free or gift receiving dog will still be learning, but it won’t be from the curriculum you want.
Technology means NOTHING to your dog. They want and need YOU!
YOUR attention. YOUR communication. YOUR companionship. YOUR protection. Exercise and play with YOU. Understanding, training, socialising and behaviour modification from YOU.
If you really want to be a true advocate for your dog, you will spend regular focused moments of time teaching them, learning about them and enjoying them.
All the theoretical watching, learning and understanding in the world is worthless unless you step away from the screen and learn to actually USE that information. And no, walking with your dog while paying attention to your phone is not good enough. Put the phone in your pocket and pay attention to your dog!
YOUR dog wants and needs YOU to do that. Please stop resisting; avoiding; procrastinating! Get up. Get moving. Go and spend time with your dog.
Appreciate the value technology brings and never, ever stop learning, but if you can find 10 or 20 or 60 or 300 minutes of your ‘free’ time to fully engage with technology, you can find moments of time to fully engage with your dog. Indeed you must! For your dog’s sake. The small moments add up to become the big results.
Use technology mindfully as the great tool it is. Use it to learn what to do with your dog and why to do it. Then practice how and when to do it with your actual dog! Analyse the results and refine your technique.
You can then return to the screen with a clear conscience and something real to share. Real struggles. Real achievements. Real questions. Real empathy. Real experiences. A real relationship with a real animal who needs the real you.
Diana lives in Hamilton, New Zealand, with her husband, their 10 year old border collie cross dog, Bounce, and 18 month old border collie, Spring. The couple have three adult children.
Diana’s philosophy for teaching people is the same as it is for dogs – provide the environment for them to learn to think, be themselves, develop confidence and self manage, and reinforce that learning generously. Matching the philosophy with a demanding reality is a constant work in progress!
Two years ago Diana took leave from her school teaching job to be able to offer more support to her very elderly parents. She has continued to work part time in teaching while also offering dog training classes and behavioural consultations. She is also currently working towards certification as a Strategic Intervention Life Coach.
She enjoys writing and has contributed articles to a number of sites and magazines. In 2005 her book, Clicker Agility for Fun and Fitness was published by Learning About Dogs UK.
Diana’s online presence includes http://www.wingsdogtraining.co.nz/ and https://www.facebook.com/wingsdogtraining/ for dog related posts and http://www.followthepebbles.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/FollowThePebbles/ for more human related ones.