You can learn a lifetime’s worth of training acumen by how you learn to work with your pooch.

I’m the first to admit I am no dog expert. So when I found myself adopting a four-year-old Anatolian shepherd, I knew I was in for an education.

Don’t get me wrong: I have had a menagerie of dogs throughout the course of my lifetime. I certainly understand what it’s like to have a dog, but to train a dog? I needed some training myself on the matter. And because Anatolian shepherds are a breed that is notably intelligent, I knew that training would be integral (especially for an older pup with established habits that didn’t serve our community (ahem—chasing cats)) to welcoming this new addition to our family.

I knew the answer to the problems that would inevitably arise lay in training—of both myself and the dog. I hired an expert to come and help with the transition. It was not a cheap investment, but one I knew was well worth it because I have committed to Ruger the Anatolian shepherd and this being his forever home.

Our first lesson included a discussion of philosophy and approach, the trainer dispelling popularly held myths about dogs. For example, dogs don’t need you to put your hand out for a sniff, they can smell you from a mile away. If you put your hand in front of a dog’s face, you could expect to get bit.

After the first 30 minutes of our 60 minute session, we started working with rigor. Learning how to give commands. Learning about the different pieces of equipment. Learning what was most important to learn that day. That lesson? A command is the end result you want.

I’m not sure who needed to learn more, me or Ruger. I had a lot of bad habits compiled over my years of experience that I needed to dislodge. Ruger’s goal is just to please me. And kill a few things along the way.

Thankfully, the trainer left me with resources and I took some videos. Ruger got an A+. As for myself? I’d say a C+. Once the trainer left, the responsibility of training Ruger—and myself—came to rest entirely on my shoulders. I knew that practice was key to get the most out of my investment. The reward of that investment was well worth it; I wanted to be an owner with a well-trained dog.

I began by creating my plan. I knew in order to succeed, I needed to truly practice, and in order to truly practice, I needed to keep myself accountable. So I asked myself, “What are the three biggest commands I wanted to practice straight away?” Walk. Come. Place. Then I started to schedule my training times on the calendar: 10 minutes sessions about five times a day. I was underway.

Even on the first day, I realized I was already missing the mark. He was not doing the walk command the way we learned. I knew that Ruger had the tools to train, and the fault lay in my implementation of the training. What was I not communicating properly? I went back to my references and realized I was giving the command, but still left tension in my arm. My new approach was supposed to be the command then relax my arm, because the learning happens with dogs in the relaxed state. Then either you praise or you say “No,” with the command followed by a relaxed posture.

In our next round, my focus for me as the trainer was on relaxing. Presto! Like magic, it worked. My confidence grew as a trainer, and Ruger lost interest in the squirrels; his desire for love and affection commanded more attention than the squirrels.

Fast forward a week, and we are still in training. Now I’ve begun to notice another obstacle to my own role as a trainer: complacency. With my busy schedule, it’s so easy to lose priority of my commands. Already, I can see Ruger and I getting back to old patterns, like pulling on the lead more when we are walking, breaking “calm” when the cats are out, and not staying on place when I command.

I have found myself a few times wanting to blame the philosophy, the process, the trainer, but deep down I know what the issue is me, the owner. It’s not the training that’s failing, it’s my implementation of it—or lack thereof.

Now, as you might expect, all of this is an applicable lesson not just for humans and their pets, but for managers and their employees. We reiterate, again and again, the importance not just of training, but of practice and implementation. Just like Ruger and I needed a forced schedule for practice, you need to set aside time to practice new techniques and lessons with your team. And just as our training failed when I didn’t hold myself, the leader, accountable, so will your training fail when your managers don’t properly implement it, and continue to do so indefinitely.

Training is a lot of work. Once you commit to training, it entails a lifetime of relentless reinforcement and correction. Though it does get easier, when you’re learning something new, persistence is key! As a leader, it’s your responsibility to dedicate yourself to your staff and your training in order to achieve the success you envision.

There are no bad dogs, there are just lazy owners. Don’t be a lazy owner.


About The Mann Group:  We are The Mann Group, a charmingly incongruous and blatantly genuine group of big thinkers and list makers. Get us together, and our ideas bloom into vibrant, sky-high projects; take us apart, and we work methodically and assiduously to accomplish the goals we created together.  We create and implement practical courses and curriculum to help businesses and individuals grow.

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