From Ava – ❤
“To be honest, when I first applied for the Riffle Memorial Scholarship, I didn’t really know what I was in for. Roo was about five months old at the time, starting a very interesting time in the life of any dog: Adolescence. And even though I’ve learned a lot of important things about timing, mechanics, and just overall being a good trainer, the most important things that Roo and Nancy have taught me together are more about your relationship with your dog, where all awesome training starts.
As my sweet, silly puppy plunged into adolescence, I learned what it meant to have a dog with opinions. Suddenly, Roo had a lot of opinions… and he also had some anxiety. The first time I really saw this was during a dinner party when a lot of guests were coming into our house. Roo was obviously uncomfortable.
In order to help Roo, we did things like going to the coffee and dogs group that Nancy offered in April, to give him a chance to meet people in a positive, controlled environment. That turned out to be a great thing, not only for Roo but also for me. Talking to other people who also owned dogs that weren’t 100% sure about people was awesome. Attending that group taught me one very important lesson in particular. One dog owner was talking with Nancy about the types of things she’d be able to do with her dog. Nancy said something along the lines of “even if you can’t go hiking or go to a dog park, you can still have so much fun in your backyard.” From this, I realized that so often what we want for our dogs isn’t the same as what they want. If your dog loves walking around town, that’s awesome.
However, for an anxious dog, that may feel like absolute torture. Not every dog has to do everything. I know Roo LOVES playing with other dogs, but many dogs don’t. So listen to your dog, and don’t push them into situations that make them uncomfortable just because you feel like they “should” be able to handle it.
So overall, I learned that just because your dog isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome. Roo has his issues, but we all do. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a great dog. He’s still funny and bouncy and joyful and makes me smile every time I look at him. And obviously, he’s taught me a lot that I needed to learn. I’ve learned how to make training fun for both of us. The second that we stop enjoying it is the second it stops being effective. And he’s taught me how to be less serious about everything. Not every single issue that we run into is the end of the world, and sometimes I just need to take a step back and not start to define my relationship with Roo by all the struggles that we face.
Nancy has showed me that for whatever reason, some dogs need a little extra support in this life, whether that is choosing environments carefully, being your dog’s advocate in the big wide world, or any multitude of other things. And it’s our job to give that to them. This brings me to my final point. Over the course of the scholarship, the hands down most important thing that I learned was that it’s not about me. It’s about us. Both me and Roo need to be having a good time, and feel safe and be part of a team.
Thank you Nancy for this fantastic opportunity! The awesome immersion into the world of dogs and dog training that I experienced proved to be by far the most effective way to learn.