How are those New Year resolutions going so far? You’ve set up your goals, you’ve started a new routine. If you’re anything like me, you’ve also slipped and swerved and gotten back on track again… probably more than once.
Adjustment is the real key here, isn’t it? Not staying perfectly in line every moment, but correcting and balancing. It’s about deciding where to aim your compass and making the changes necessary to go where you want to go.
Two of my private lesson clients are right in the middle of learning how this applies to dog training — an older German Shepherd and a rescue Pug on her 3rd home. Both dogs understand basic instructions, but they haven’t internalized the responsibility to maintain their connections with their people through the ups and downs (and squirrels) of life. They, and their people, are still more comfortable with the certainty of a down-stay than the dynamic balance of maintaining a loose leash on a walk, or moving from play to obedience and back again.
Dynamic balance is about maintaining an ongoing connection with your dog that gives you both more freedom.
Moving attention is more challenging to maintain than stationary commands like ‘sit’ and ‘down’. Walking on-leash, coming when called, and retrieving a toy all require your dog to actively choose to stay connected with you. Down and sit give dogs a chance to disconnect, to check out and ignore us — do what’s required, but then give their attention to the smells in the grass or the bird in the tree. Clearly, dynamic connection is necessary for off-leash reliability.
Teaching our dogs to aim their compass in our direction — and then to adjust and correct their course as necessary — is the key to a meaningful relationship. The kind of relationship where we are more important to our dogs than the countless distractions out there. Off-leash, dynamic balance requires more of us — more attention, more skill, more ability to predict and act in the moment. And it is ultimately be more rewarding for everyone.