say what you mean, mean what you say

Several years ago I was at a conference in Portland and had the opportunity to listen in on a session with Kay Laurence. I had followed her on line through videos and articles, but I had never seen or met her in person. What a treat!

She was one of my earlier influences when I was considering training as a profession, almost 10 years ago. There was something about her training style, her laughter, her words. I just had a connection. Beside who doesn’t love a brilliant trainer with a British accent?!

At this conference she was engaging, smart, and funny. But there was one topic she touched on that really hit home. If you mean to say YES! than say it like you mean it, don’t leave it as a question.

My friends and I had just been talking about the difference between how you say what you mean to your dog verses waffling over if you really mean what you are saying to your dog. Does this have an influence on the results, the behavior, the relationship, and even trust?

Now you’re all probably thinking, dear god is this what trainers really talk about? YES it is. This is what trainers do, we sit down and drink and talk about dogs and behavior and everything that comes with it. Great fun really.

Because I am an integrative trainer, I work with the whole team, handler and dog. Part of making a team a real team is the information one is giving to the other. Being clear and purposeful with words is imperative.

And behind those words, you must believe what you are saying. A dog will be the first one to call you out if your words say one thing, but the meaning is quite different. This is a good way to blow trust. Honesty is truly the foundation for any relationship, and through our words, honesty must always shine through.

Does this come naturally? To some yes, to most no. It takes practice to be direct, honest, intentional, and engaged through words. Ask any successful public speaker! It takes the ability to concentrate on what you are saying in a distraction free zone, as well as a carnival like atmosphere.To have your thoughts, match your words or tone, to match your body language. This takes practice.

I have spent years honing my craft as a trainer and I am rarely misinterpreted by a dog. It doesn’t mean that every dog and I agree on everything or even get along, but I have become skilled at not sending mixed messages.

So with your dog, when you step out to work or play, really focus on not only what you are saying, but how you are saying it. Let your dog know for sure!


So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
― Dr. Seuss

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