Recently I was eating breakfast with a colleague from work. Of course, as many of our conversations go, we began to chat about our dogs. Both of her dogs are mixed breeds and beautiful pets. Nonetheless, she has always expressed an interest in my tales of dog showing. I was telling her how Victor and I have been preparing for Obedience trials. I shared with her how proud I was the other morning when he mastered the hand signal for down. I proceeded to show her the video I had saved on my cell phone. She looked at me as she ate her boiled egg and said “so does he ever just get to be a dog?” I never even had to think before I answered. I chuckled and replied “of course, he gets to be a dog, he is a dog.”
I guess for my friends and family not involved with dog conformation shows or dog sports, they may often listen and wonder if Victor gets to just relax and be a dog. It’s a rationale that may make sense to the outsider listening to my stories on training. Whether it is the new class I am enrolled in or teaching conformation classes on Sunday afternoons, I have no doubt that it may be perceived that my dog trains every day for endless hours. But at the end of any day, my dog is first and foremost a dog. In fact, he is one of my most loyal companions, perhaps even my dearest friend. He is part of our family.
When it comes to training I believe there are many misconceptions. Victor and I do not train for endless hours daily. Even if I didn’t work outside the home, we wouldn’t. The key to training in my opinion is creating a healthy relationship with your dog. It doesn’t have to be hours. Short intervals of training can actually serve your dog well. Whether you are teaching how to give paw or learning how to stay in a sit position, no one including dogs wish to train for hours. If you and your dog are not having fun training, then you probably need to take a break. Hence I keep our training short, anywhere from one to three times daily for no more than 10 minutes per time. Sometimes opportunity arises when you least expect it.
For example, the other morning I was getting dressed and somehow got myself tangled in my sweater. My right arm went up in what would be seen as the down command in obedience. Well lone behold Sir Victor did it for me for the first time. I offered him tons of praise with my voice. We never had a great deal of success in class with this hand signal, but every few days I would try. Well after the praise, we were off to the living room. He performed the command several times for me. To say I was pumped was an understatement. After that, we went for our morning trot around the block and I went off to work. He proceeded to retreat back to bed and snuggled in for his morning nap.
Wise words of advice for anyone training would be to always remain positive, never get frustrated and when the timing is right, it will happen. Also it is completely acceptable that not everything goes perfect the first, the second or even the third time. Sometimes it just takes time.
Victor is a dog, a pet, a conformation show dog, an obedience trial prospect, but most importantly he is family. He travels with us to the in-laws for New Year’s Day Dinner, takes part in the Annual Downtown Christmas Parade, and even helps me deliver the Christmas Hampers for Animals in Need. He is my sidekick and my partner in crime. Sure, he is in the world of dog competitions, but that doesn’t make him any less of a dog. He bounces outside in the snow with joy and in the summertime, and dives into the rivers like a Labrador retriever (did I mention he is a standard wire haired dachshund?).
I can say with full confidence, Victor gets to be ‘just a dog’ more time than he is a competitive dog. I am grateful for the competitions and training, as it has strengthened our bond. It has allowed him to become a more balanced dog and I to become a well-rounded owner. So if anyone ever asks you “if your dog ever just gets to be a dog?” Trust me, I am certain they do.