An Agility bloggers’ group prompted bloggers to write today about what we wish we knew when we started agility that we know now.  Many bloggers will blog about handling systems, contact training strategies, and motivational tools.  But since this isn’t strictly an agility blog, I’m not going to only talk about this in reference to my favorite dog game.  I find it fitting that today is my dog Kelso’s birthday, and I have been called to write about lessons I have learned in dog training–since he IS the lesson, after all.  The truth is, I am grateful for the journey I have had, and I value having had to learn things through sweat, blood, and tears (so. many. tears.).  I am monumentally thankful that my teacher has been Kelso, for he is patient, kind, and (being dog) without ego.  Funny that THAT is only lesson I wish I had received sooner, the one that I value the most:

Be kind, be patient, be humble.

I am lucky to have learned this lesson relatively early in my life, and I owe it to dogs and dog training.  There was a time that I placed responsability on my dog to “be right” in any situation, and blamed him when things went wrong.  I learned many poor dog training techniques, as well as a few good ones.  But the training details are not what matters today.  What matters today is that I have learned how to look at a troubled dog and not blame him for his troubles.  I now understand that were he not required to live in the human world these troubles would not exist.  I am now able to treat him with kindness, be patient with his process, and remain humble throughout.  This is what the great dog teachers do, and this is what Kelso taught me through many trials and much error.  For me, once I got the lesson, it stuck.  Treating dogs with these virtues of kindness, patience, and humility comes easily and without effort because that is what dogs do for people, they allow and invite us to be our best selves.

The bigger lesson for me has been to also treat people with kindness, patience, and humility.  When I approach a dog and owner I understand that both halves of this relationship are troubled, and both deserve my kind compassion, my patient teaching, and my humble acceptance of whatever results come forth.

The ability to express these virtues to everyone is what I thank my beautiful dog for today, on his 11th birthday.  It has been a crazy 11 years full of hard-fought lessons, but also plenty of laughing and fun.  Even though it is gloomy here, we are going on an amazing walk together later, to celebrate each other and the journey we’ve had.

Hug your dogs today, and ask them what it is they are here to teach you. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.