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Build a Relationship


By Terri Arnold

Draft excerpt from the new 1999 edition of my books...

Here I am again writing you a personal note, three years later. About one year ago, I knew I would have to either reprint or rewrite my books. The sales were incredible and we were running out of them. As a matter of fact, we completely sold out. I received lots of mail from people who wrote to thank me for these books. I was told time and again that they did not have access to a top trainer in their area and these books helped them so much. I want to thank each person who took the time to write to me, I really appreciated every letter. With each letter, my determination to rewrite the books grew stronger. I decided to rewrite them because so much of my training had changed. I did not realize at the time what a project this rewrite was going to turn out to be. It has taken over a year and I know you will love the changes.

One of the most important life lessons I had to learn was not to be afraid of change. Change is growth, and growing is something to which we should all look forward. Without change we stay stagnant and wither away. Stretching and growing is what will allow us to stay young and prosper. Some of the most incredible people I have met are people who are over 70 and have come to me to learn a new way. Some of these people have been involved in dogs most of their life and yet still are interested in learning. My goal is to be one of those people. We have all met trainers who do not stay with the times; "well it worked 20 years ago, it will work today." I know you will love the changes in these books, so please open yourself up to them. I hope in the next rewrite I will find even better ways to train and will once again share them with you.

In thinking about what to write to you in this personal note, nothing seemed more important to your success than helping you to understand that "Your success in the ring will come from the Relationship you have with your dog." There is no certain method of training that will make you successful. And if you have a wonderful relationship with your dog, any method will work. True success came to me with Stride. We had a wonderful relationship and that relationship is what you saw in the ring. For many of you, it is this relationship you are seeking with your own dog.

When I think about Stride's life with me, I can honestly say that I totally accepted him and that he totally accepted me. There was never a day that I wished he was someone else or I wanted to change him. There was never a day when he wanted someone else. I understood him completely and he understood me. I knew that our relationship would show in the ring. When we walked into the ring, I was never afraid that we would look bad. My only fear was that he would be a little wild. He totally trusted me and knew that no matter what happened in the ring, my love for him would never falter. I would just go home and work harder to be clearer in my expectations. I am not saying that there were not times when we were mad at each other, because there were. Even in those hard times, we never stopped loving each other. I let Stride have a voice and I listened to him.

Stride was full of energy, I was a lot younger, and I could almost match his energy. The more energy he gave me, the more I gave back and together we created even more energy. I can remember training for three or four hours and he still wanted to get his dumbbell one more time. He always kept me in line and would tell me if it was time to play. I listened and enjoyed the play as much as the training. It was this balance that allowed us to reach such a high level of performance. It is this balance that you, too, must learn. It is the give back of energy, and in some cases the generation of energy, you must be able to give. At times it may be hard to give your dog so much energy and not get an immediate response back, do it anyway. I know this energy will not be lost, it will be returned. It will also do you good to be the one who has to generate the energy.

I can remember the laughter we shared. Stride was a clown and, if things got too serious, he would get me to laugh. He had expressions that just brought out the smiles. In the ring, I had to be sure not to smile at him. One smile and he would be up in my face, out of control. We did our share of just spending time together like long walks in the woods, where he would never leave my side but walk backwards in front of me. I would have to put him on a leash so he could play bouncy, bouncy. I remember laughing and telling him this was silly, I had the only dog in the world who wanted a leash on so we could go for a walk together. It was a blessing when flexi leashes came out; at least he would get some exercise pulling the flexi around. We spent countless hours playing this game.
Stride helped me to learn patience; I did not have much with my other dogs. I would get frustrated and lose my patience all the time. My other dogs were afraid of me and I swore that I never wanted this to happen between Stride and me. I learned to stop training and walk away to cool down. I do not want you to think that we never had any problems, because we did. I finally learned to think about them and find a way to solve them. I did not just jerk him around out of anger, the way I did the other dogs. I learned to become a very patient trainer and so can you.

I had to learn to be consistent with Stride and he learned to be very consistent in his actions. It was this lesson that allowed us to do so much winning. I knew what I wanted and he knew what I wanted. When a problem arose, I knew it was my responsibility to help him understand, it was not his responsibility to try and figure it out. I would then try and see what he was thinking or why he did not understand. Every time I would realize that he did not get what I wanted. I would then be more consistent and clear in my training which helped him to understand. By being more consistent, expectations between us were then understood. Consistency is very important in training and these books can teach you how to be more consistent.

I loved Stride with all my heart and soul and I still do today. He reveled in that love and returned it twofold. I realize that love is a verb, not a feeling. When you love something, you do all the following actions I will talk about. When you do these actions, the feelings will follow. I remember how lonely I would be if I was away from him. He would sit at the top of the stairs waiting for me when I was gone. My husband would tell me that he looked very depressed. I would get so excited when I would be coming home. The greeting he gave me was incredible. We loved each other in our everyday life and it was that love that you saw in the ring. Read the following very carefully, and someday you will be able to show off the love between you and your dog for all of us to share…. Secrets for a wonderful relationship…

Understanding: Understand your dog's behavior and how his mind works. Take some time and learn how your dog sees the world. It is important that we as trainers learn how a dog communicates his intent, emotion, and understanding of a situation. I have learned a valuable lesson from Stephen Covey…"Seek first to understand and then to be understood". Once we truly understand dog behavior, we can then begin to get the dog to understand what we are trying to teach them. Always see things through your dog's eyes. Evolution has given dogs communication skills to insure their survival. To get the most of your relationship with your dog, complete understanding is the first step. It is not as important that your dog understand you as it is that you understand how your dog sees the world. By understanding how he sees the world, you are empowered to then get him to understand you. With this understanding, you will gain heights you only dreamed about before.

Accept your dog for who he is, not for who you would like him to be. Acceptance is the second step in building a better relationship. When we learn to accept a dog and not judge him, he begins to blossom. Look for the good in your dog always. You can never change another by trying to make them into something you would like them to be, because they are who they are. Do not try to change your dog into someone you think he should be. It is an awful feeling when you know you are being judged. It makes all your actions be based on fear. You always wonder if you are safe and really loved. You then become defensive and I see this in so many dogs. This will only make your relationship and training more difficult. However, when a dog feels completely accepted, they can begin to shine in ways you never expected. All life needs acceptance.

Energy: Give energy to your dog and he will give it back to you. All relationship is the result of a constant give and take of energy. For a training relationship to prosper both you and your dog must exchange energy. Too often, the source of energy the handler uses is food. It is easy to fall prey to this type of training because giving a treat is easy. But if this is your only source of energy, you will see the empty results in the ring when the food is not there. When you train, give your dog your attention, love, playfulness, and appreciation! If you want a happy up dog in the ring, you must learn to give your dog your energy. It is the energy that you give your dog that allows your dog to give energy back to you. Sometimes it is hard to give energy to a dog that does not give it right back to you. I am telling you that you must generate the energy first and keep on. Your dog will come around and respond to that energy. Then you will create even more energy between you. This energy in your relationship will be what goes with you into the ring!
Play: Dogs love to play as part of their everyday lives. Play should be a part of our everyday life too. Often, we get caught up in the training and forget that our dogs need to play and be light hearted. We forget how important play is to our own lives. Play makes both our dogs and our own spirits soar. It gives our bodies and minds a chance to forget about the pressures of everyday life. Play allows us not to put too much pressure on our dogs or ourselves. If you feel yourself or your dog getting uptight, simply take a play break. This will serve to rejuvenate both of you. Think of the sport of obedience as a "game" that you play with your dog. This will make it a lot easier to keep your cool. When play and training are done right, it should be hard to distinguish between the two. Dogs love to play, so learn how to be their playmate!

Foster trust through effective communication. Trust develops in any relationship when two can communicate their wants and needs effectively. When two indivuduals understand each other, they are able to reach an even higher level of success. Together they form a relationship that is stronger than either of them alone. Trust comes from having both the needs and wants of each other satisfied. Trust is also something you develop over time. Trust builds as you commit yourself to either building or repairing your relationship. Trust takes time. Without it, you will never reach the success you are looking for. Start a trust bank with your dog and watch what happens.

Laughter: Don't take yourself, the sport, or your dog too seriously. Learn to laugh at both your and your dog's mistakes. See the humor in what you are trying to accomplish. Remember you are doing this to have fun, do not take the fun out of it. Be sure to check and see if your dog is really having fun too. Unfortunately, if we are having fun ourselves, we may fail to see that our dog is not. Dogs have a wonderful ability to understand laughter and can revel in it too! When something goes wrong, try and see the humor in it. So you made a mistake, or your dog did, it is not the end of the world. Now that is something you should take seriously! Only kidding! Remember no one will take your dog away from you or shoot you if you mess up. We do this for fun, gosh when you think about what we are trying to do, you have to laugh!

Patience: Move forward one step at a time, knowing that success does not come overnight. Of all the "secrets of success", this is the most important. Patience is not something one is born with; it is something one learns over time. Without patience, all the knowledge in the world about training is worthless. Do not get angry because you are unable to get yourself or your dog to do something. Lack of patience on either of your parts will only lead to failure. And failure itself is nothing more that learning that something does not work. I wish we could buy a bucket full of patience. I would be a rich person for I would be the first to put it on the market. Remember that both your dog and you have to learn, and mistakes are a normal part of the learning process. Be patient with yourself and your dog as your training relationship grows and moves forward!

Consistency: Be consistent in each and every interaction with your dog. The third most important "secret of success" is learning to be consistent in your expectations. Dogs learn best by understanding black and white. Something is right and will bring pleasure, or something is wrong and will bring displeasure. Be a handler who has learned not to have any gray area in your training relationship. Inconsistency is the fastest way to hurt your relationship, where consistency is the direct path to trust. Have a clear mental picture of what you want from both yourself and your dog, then pay attention to what you are doing to bring this mental picture into reality. Be consistent and you will soon see how good you and your partner can become!

Love: The result of all the above is the foundation of love that will be expressed between you and your dog. Understand that love is a verb not a feeling. When we really love someone, we apply the above secrets to the other in our relationship. We must learn that a wonderful relationship first starts with love for ourselves and that love allows us to love the other. Learn to love yourself for each of us is a special creation of GOD. Remember what Deepak Chopra said, "All relationship is a mirror of the relationship you have with yourself." When you really take time and think about this statement, you will find it is true. Love is not the answer to a great relationship, it is the outcome!

Read this often, for we sometimes forget what it takes to have a wonderful relationship with another. One of the biggest mistakes we make is to take a relationship for granted. When this happens, even the best relationship can fall apart. The last secret to a beautiful relationship is appreciation. All life has a need for appreciation. When we feel appreciated, we feel validated. This gives meaning to our lives and brings joy to our hearts! Take time everyday to be grateful for your growth and your partners, and joy will become a normal part of your everyday life!

I hope you find this article useful, I personnally wish each of you the best relationship possible with your friend. Terri

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