The Golden Rules: Learning Copper’s Way

3. Golden Rule #3: A Few of Life’s Greatest Truths

Copper in school, age 11 weeks

Copper in school, age 11 weeks

From the very first puppy obedience class, we began learning some of life’s greatest truths.

The first one: stuff travels up and down the leash.

How very true that is! Our dogs take their cues from us. If we’re stressed, they know it. If they’re stressed, we know it. And their behavior shows it.

The second one: learning should be fun.

If you go to puppy obedience classes thinking you’ll just hand over the leash to your trainer and come out an hour later with a magically trained dog, you are in for a surprise. There is homework, every day, 20 minutes a day, in 5 minute increments. If you do your homework, your trainer will know. If you don’t do your homework, your trainer will know that too. So don’t even bother telling your trainer that yes, you’re doing your homework and you’re mystified by your dog’s continued out-of-control behavior. Your dog is your tell.

The third one: more than any other command, the most important thing your dog needs to learn from you? To listen.

It was pretty funny seeing Copper, at just 11 weeks old, concentrating intently as we gave him commands like Come! Sit! Down! Stay! We learned hand commands, too, so that even if he couldn’t hear us say the word, he could “read” our hands. He learned so quickly, and the class sessions flew by. In no time we’d bonded with fellow students and their dogs, and puppy training classes became the highlight of our week.

As much as our dogs were learning, we owners were learning so much more. If our dogs were learning to listen to us, we were also learning to listen to them. I became a devoted student of animal body language — dogs around the world communicate with each other using exactly the same “language” or behavior. For instance, a dog’s yawn is a calming mechanism. He’s not tired. He’s trying to calm himself, or maybe another agitated dog.

I love this thought from Chief Dan George:

If you talk to the animals,

They will talk to you,

And you will know each other.

If you do not talk to them,

You will not know them,

And what you do not know,

You will fear.

What one fears,

One destroys.

My deepest thanks to our trainer Charlie P. for introducing us to the amazing world of animal communication! Little did I know the weekly training classes and the daily homework would establish and reinforce some of life’s most important lessons.

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