By the time Rugby came to live with me, I was a well seasoned dog owner. I had been training and showing my dogs for 20 years or so, and my Corgis all just came right into line with the methods that I used. I had to do minor tweaking to adjust from one dog to the next, but by and large, they were all pretty easy and similar in how they did things.
Rugby? Not so much. He hasn’t fit the mold on many things, and I had some epic fails in working with him as a young adult dog. Nobody likes to admit their mistakes, but boy howdy, I made my share with Rugby to be sure! And while I look back at some of those things and feel like I failed him, the honest truth is that we can’t do what we don’t know! And so many of the mistakes I made in working with Rugby came from simply not knowing the right things to do!
Probably the biggest mistake that I made, was in thinking that I knew exactly what to do to change his behavior. And closely behind that one, was in taking too long to shift methods to try new things. Before I had Rugby, I wasn’t accustomed to thinking outside the box in my training. Generally dogs just came along with my methods, and I honestly didn’t have many quarrels with them in shaping up. Rugby didn’t have a mold….and didn’t think like other dogs. I didn’t expect that, so I didn’t know how to adjust to work with him.
I spent far too much time thinking he was being stubborn and willful, and blaming him. I assumed a great many things that just weren’t correct. I honestly just don’t think that things in his brain fire correctly, and he simply can’t manage to give me what I want….because he can’t, not because he won’t. And there’s a world of difference between “can’t” and “won’t.”
I caved in to my own frustration far too many times, rather than taking a deep breath and just trying again with adjustments. It’s really amazing, but when I adjusted my eyesight to use the right lens to see my dog, so many of the negative feelings I had….just disappeared. Once I realized that Rugby just couldn’t figure things out, I didn’t feel frustrated with him. I stopped feeling so angry when I realized that he wasn’t being willful or stubborn….he just didn’t know what to do, because he couldn’t understand. My anger gave way to compassion when I understood things from the right perspective.
Our little dogs, no matter their age, or size or backgrounds….try so so hard for us. They really do. They try so. very. hard. And it took me so very long to realize that about Rugby. I let myself get angry, instead of feeling compassion for him. He wasn’t failing me in those early days. I was failing him.
And my little speckled treasure all wrapped up in fur with chocolate drop eyes, never stopped believing in me. He didn’t necessarily trust me, but he never gave up on me. He was always willing to try again, even though things weren’t working. He always came to work with a great attitude, and hope in his eyes. And even though I kept doing it wrong….Rugby James still tried to do what I wanted, because he’s just that kind of little dog.
As a result, the dogs that I train today…especially the Rugby-type of dogs, get the benefit of the knowledge I gained from making mistakes with Rugby. Those dogs, if they’re mentally stable, make wonderful changes and good recoveries in their behavior, because I learned and failed in my efforts with Rugby, so I know what to do in working with them. And because my little speckled and spotted dog named Rugby James became this dog trainer’s Guinea Pig, he’s made it possible for many other dogs to keep their homes….and ultimately their lives.