“It doesn't matter to a dog what its owner says, does, or thinks; all that matters is what happens to the owner internally on the deepest level of emotion
..........Kevin Behan's, 'Your Dog is Your Mirror'
I have had Jack from a puppy. The breed has a strong hunting drive and I had learnt the hard way that he wasn't safe to let off the lead. But I wanted to give him freedom so training a reliable recall became like searching the holy grail for me.
Before I started following Natural Dog Training (NDT) I would only let Jack secure areas. I could entice him back with treats sometimes. If left to his own devices he would zone me out, get his nose down and find something more interesting to do. The only way to distract him then would be to move him physically with the lead.
With NDT things started to change. He stayed engaged with me for longer periods – I could get his attention back more often, although not all the time. He would start to air scent and automatically look to me to 'push for food'. Although not fool proof the behaviour was a big advance on what I had achieved previously. I invited a dog behaviourist friend of mine, to see how we were progressing. As Claire watched us work she was amazed. She said this was the first time she has seen us interacting so well together.
Claire was that independent witness, confirming that the hard work was starting to pay off. Jack was more focussed on me. Curiously, I didn't feel elated to hear that my goal of the perfect recall was in reach. Instead I felt sick and panicky. For the first time in 5 years of working on this goal, I realised at a deeper level, I was scared of being handed that authority.
This emotional trigger was important to me. I could make links to memories from my childhood. I was the oldest of three siblings, and growing up I had been left to look after my brother and sister. There were occasions when I hadn't made such a good job of it. It seemed there was part of me that was still affected by those experiences. I was avoiding responsibility in case something bad happened.
It was clear that in working on my emotional connection with my dogs I needed to clean my own act up, to make sure I wasn't blocking things. Noticing and making the connection was a first and necessary step.