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Are you a selfish handler?

“Come on, Nike, what’s wrong with you?” Nike, a three year old sable German Shepherd, was in the middle of a heeling exercise at the training club, but wasn’t showing much enthusiasm. “Ugh, she’s being lazy,” said her embarrassed handler. Blaming the dog is a common reaction, especially when you are on the field and other dogs are showing more drive and performance than your own.


We all want that dog who pushes us for more when coming onto the field, particularly when our peers are watching. Too often, the handler attributes this trait solely to genetics. They don’t recognizing that those high drive, enthusiastic dogs have handlers that worked hard at solidifying the idea that all awesome things come from mutual interaction.

If you are completely relying on genetics for activity and drive, you will likely be very disappointed. Even the best dog doesn’t want to work for nothing. Once the ball is gone and they know it, getting them to stay 100% motivated is waaaaay harder. To quote Marc Goldberg, a favorite pet trainer of mine, “Be more interesting than dirt!” If you bring nothing to the training field except your rewards, you’re not getting the most out of your dog. The handlers who are most successful during training sessions genuinely love working with their dogs. They get excited about problem solving and are genuinely interested in how their dog learns. The goal of achieving titles comes second. 


If you struggle getting excitement, interest and drive in your obedience, first give your attitude a good hard look. Are your expectations too high, while your reps are too low? What are you bringing to the table? Why would your dog enjoy playing with you? What about your relationship would make your dog activate and push you to work? Is your training too technical while lacking a real connection?


Next time you’re tempted to feel crestfallen at your dog’s lack of enthusiasm, ask yourself what you can change to show your dog you’re worth the effort.


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