For some reason I am never afraid to try something new in dog training. In fact I almost feel like I have to – exploring different fields and areas of dog training is where I find my inspiration and learn the most. And it is not like my dogs give me any other option anyway. They all come with very different temperaments and background stories. From my little sensitive Šja to cocky Šaj, from ever so serious, hardworking and focused Če to happy go lucky Baxus with an attention span of a toddler. From a dog I bred at home (who turned out to be the most difficult to understand) to a misunderstood dog I adopted as an adult (and knew what she needed instantly). But despite all those differences, they do have something in common. Somewhere along each individual journey they become curious and enthusiastic about any challenge we want to tackle. They learn not to back off when things don’t come as easy as expected. They are not afraid to try things and make mistakes. They can be wild, cheeky or naughty, but they all know when it is time to listen. I get to know their strengths and make sure they are aware of them as well, because being able to do what you are good at in life fills you with confidence and playfulness. But I love that they will try their best even when I ask them to do something that is not exactly “down their alley”. They all learn to cope with every day life challenges well and trust me to solve big life problems for them. Those are the things I strive to achieve and the things that matter to me more than anything.
Foto: Emily Abrams
A while ago a friend of mine kindly shared (thank you Olga!) a little video example of how we approach problems in my Let’s play class along with a description that said something like: “I love Polona’s way of training because her approach to dogs is very holistic, taking into consideration their mental state and adapting it to each individual.” Holistic… wow. It would never have occurred to me to describe my training with such word, but I guess it really does describe how I approach training. Throughout my career as a dog trainer I have tried myself (more or less seriously) in a whole bunch of different areas. From teaching household obedience classes and working with problematic dogs, training and competing in sports (agility, obedience, IGP), preparing a dog for real life police work, herding, training and handling dogs and cats in movie projects,…. It was never my master plan, just plain curiosity and drive to seize every opportunity and challenge myself as much as possible. But what it ultimately gave me was the ability to see the forest behind the single tree. I realized that it is not about specific skills at all. They are all easy to teach if you understand what is behind it. What drives your dog? How he copes with frustration? Does he have good control of his body? Which emotions are helpful in the training process (and when) and which are making things hard/impossible? Is the dog physically and mentally ready for the challenge you laid in front of him? How easy it is for him to concentrate? How does he learn? Is he equipped with the right drive for a task that requires it? The list goes on and on, but knowing the answers to those questions and letting your dog develop his strengths but also handle and improve his weaknesses is the very best you can do for your dog and it is what is going to make you do well in any activity you choose to do together.
And while it is pretty easy for me to step out of my comfort zone in dog training, that is not the case in other areas of my life, but I am aware of the fact that progress only comes if you dare to make this step. So here I am, presenting my newest project called “Life of a puppy”. From August 30th you will be able to follow my journey with Jimmy through series of videos and my written notes and thoughts about different areas of his life.
Putting stuff on display almost in real time posed a big issue for me. I didn’t want to put Jimmy or myself under too much pressure. I have thought long and well about this issue but I have finally decided to go for it anyway. My life has thought me that I work best under pressure and Jimmy – well if I learned anything from all my past experience is that trying to put a puppy into a mold doesn’t always end well. So I am not going to do that. This journey is not about “how to make an agility champion in a year” or “how to raise the most well behaved dog on the planet”. It is about a little puppy growing up and the partnership we will develop along the way. I will try to show how I approach puppies in general and mix Jimmy’s life and training with the experiences I gathered with all my past dogs, teaching classes and participating in different sports and activities. So there is no great plan. No crazy ambitions, no deadlines. Just a cute little puppy that I am excited to get to know better and I am sure he will inspire me as much as all my other dogs do. We will share little bits of everything, his every day life, farming, playing and training. The good and the bad, because success is build on making mistakes and learning from them. On top of that I will try to share some thoughts on general topics and provide some useful tips on how to recognize what your puppy needs and personalize his training.
I am not too excited about the technical aspect of it all… because well… the gadgets have something against me. I swear! However I am excited about having at least one of my dogs journey well documented, because as it turns out, it is really useful to go back and see the little struggles and achievements that are easy to forget later on.
Foto: Blayo San
Life of a puppy will be happening from 30th of August to 30th of December. I will feature 2-3 videos per week with different contents, everything from his upbringing, playing, learning and exploring the world as well as several other materials with additional information about general training subjects and schemes to help you understand your dog better. You can follow our journey for 55E per month or get the package deal for 200E. Stay tuned!