The scenario is almost always the same. A Team is working nicely together, the Handler is building good timing skills, the dog is learning how to work with a person, and then I see them standing, just standing. Most of the time the dog still looks eager, the person looking exasperated.
My dog is bored.
Really? It takes a lot to bore a dog when there is the promise of work. Let’s see shall we?
And 99.9% of the time the dog is not bored, but rather the Handler has stalled, ran out of steam, usually and just like a car, because of an overload on the ‘engine’.
Most people these days have working line dogs of some sort, and they want to work. Most people however that think they want a working line dog aren’t really prepared for what real work entails. And when I say ‘working line’ it encompasses herding, hunting, terriers, etc. Even if you have purchased a ‘herding reject dog’ or a ‘gun shy hunting dog’ it does not mean they don’t want to work, it usually means they were simply not started correctly, or would prefer another line of work.
If dogs who have a strong desire to work could choose their Handlers, they would most likely choose a tenacious, focused, slightly pushy, purposeful, persistent, kind, and understanding person.
This is the type of Handler that can stay with their dog, mentally, emotionally, and physically while working. The connection is undeniable, and there is energy in the Team until they are finished with whatever they are doing.
Handlers that stall when working with their dogs have not quite built the stamina necessary to stay focused for any length of duration while working or playing with their dog. Low stamina refers to the inability for sustained mental, emotional, or physical effort. And when the Handler stalls, the dog stops, disengages, becomes squirmy, or most often, super distracted.
Can this be changed?
Yes, it can, but there needs to be a decision on the Handling end to do so.
It is just like starting anything new, whether it is a musical instrument, yoga, running, a new job, cooking lessons, gardening, etc, there is a learning curve. At first it is almost always laborious, because it is new and takes a bunch of effort. BUT, if the homework is done daily, and consistently, and there is effort being made, well then good things start to happen. What was once laborious will start to seem a bit more effortless or intuitive, over time.
Time, consistency, repetition, building an understanding, kindness, and stamina are really your dogs best friend, not you. It’s true, like the fact or not.
Working dogs like to work, always be on the path to learning new behaviors, tricks, and/or sequences. There really is no end to learning more with your dog.
So the next time you stall while working with your dog, and are about to quit because you think your dog is bored, just remember my word, for better or worse, ‘really?’. And let that be your personal check to find just an ounce more emotional, mental, and physical strength to finish what you are doing with your dog, and end on a good note.