What I’ve learned about dog training from Jacques Pepin

For me it is all the same.

We do different things at different times, but it is all part of the greater whole in my opinion.

Whether I am cooking, gardening, working with clay, training my dogs, reading about 14th century concubines, hiking, or watching a good movie, or what ever, it’s life, it’s part of me, who I am, and it is the same to me. Lessons transfer if we are open to learning, and then applying what we learn. Passion.

While I have worked with dogs since the mid 1980’s, I have been cooking and gardening for much longer. Dogs, food, and gardens just might be part of my very DNA come to think of it.

My paternal genes are very much the dog and animal half of me, the compassion, think of the earth first, big heart side of myself. My maternal side was the gardening, farming, and cooking, work hard, get into the earth, if my grandparents weren’t raised so super catholic we would have been awesome pagan moon cycle gardeners DNA.

My education with dogs started from the dirt up, literally. From soil, to seed, to vegetable and fruit, to the kitchen for cooking. The lessons I learned from my grandmothers, my mother, and restaurants I worked at, taught me a great deal. And the lessons I learned are no different from working with dogs.

Gourmet photo credit

Jacques Pepin, his books, cooking shows, and blogs have confirmed the important lessons, that transfer from the kitchen to working with our dogs. Again, it is all the same if you are willing to apply yourself. I have been a fan of his for over thirty six years now, and he just gets better with age!

JP – “You have no choice as a professional chef: you have to repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes part of yourself. I certainly don’t cook the same way I did 40 years ago, but the technique remains. And that’s what the student needs to learn: the technique.”

If you work with dogs, or are passionate about working with your own dog, this has to hit home in a big way! Repetition and patterning, and then repeat.

JP – “I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique. A great chef is first a great technician. ‘If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.”

So often, my clients will ask why their dog responds to me in a different way, or how I can get their dog to do so much more. Well, through 1000’s of hours and hundreds of dogs each year, my timing, use of space, and ability to see the nuances in movement, make my relationship with dogs quite different. Working with dogs is so natural at this point, I just fall into the sweet spot without even having to think about it.

JP – “If you give the most talented Chef mediocre ingredients, he will only be able to create a mediocre dish. Great food starts with the best ingredients”

How many times have we seen the client who has super specific goals for a dog, and they chose the wrong dog, from the wrong breeder, with the wrong temperament. And it becomes a relationship of conflict on both ends of the leash.

If you have specific goals, you need to be super specific in your choice of dogs and do your research. Genetics count, ask any dog sport competitor, they choose carefully for their goals. If you don’t have specific goals, and you are just wanting a companion, a dog to hang with, well the world is open to you, there are a lot of dogs wanting to come into your home and share the love!

JP – “If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it’s hard to beat bread and butter.”

Simple, comforting, and perfect. I often times refer to a great day of working with my dogs as ‘bread and butter’ days, it comes together just perfectly. If I’m at my best, my dog is at his best, whether we are doing something super simple or complex, it is just smooth, seamless, and the relationship tangible. Love.

JP – “You can’t escape the taste of the food you had as a child. In times of stress, what do you dream about? Your mother’s clam chowder. It’s security, comfort. It brings you home.”

And it is the same for our dogs and us, the smell of each other, the sharing of a sandwich while out on a long hike, the smell of a bbq night, the snuggling on the couch while watching a great movie. The moments of comfort, they count.

So instead of parceling apart your interests in your life, and seeing each one as separate and unrelated, look to the whole, look to the shared lessons, the shared information, the passion of it all. It will for sure make you a better teacher to your dog.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Tricia says:

    Love your writing. Thanks.

  2. Daytripper says:

    Thank you again, for sharing your thoughts and wisdom. I appreciate you very much, Nancy.

  3. Teresa says:

    A wonderful read on Saturday afternoon. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  4. tippysmom2 says:

    Love this post. As much as we would like to compartmentalize our lives, that is impossible. Everything we do influences our relationships – with humans and with our pets.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I was fortunate enough to “adopt” a 9 month old GSPointer from an ex. She was amazing. He is an ex. I just acquired a puppy, and boy don’t I wish I stuck with gardening and cooking. Eyiyi. I am so happy to have found your website and am hoping it helps save me and my puppy from disappointment.

  6. cj says:

    This is simply beautiful. Thank you!

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