My first three dogs.

Nowadays it seems like everywhere I go, there are people complimenting me on my dogs.  How calm they are, how well behaved they are, or even just how focused they are on me and the task at hand.  Compliments such as these that gave me the confidence to begin taking the idea of dog training as a career quite seriously.   If you saw me today, with my whole pack in perfect harmony, even with distractions in the area, you would think I was born with a gift.  The truth is I was not.  My dog training skills only came to me after a bit of tragedy, a crazy boxer, a total bitch, and her daughter.  

When I was just a small child, we had a dog named "Josie".  Other than the general idea of the dog, I don't remember much about her.  I was just a small child at the time and we didn't have Josie very long.  The only real memory I have even relating to Josie is that of my mother saying, "We took Josie to a farm where there is an old lady and no children."  You see, Josie, like many dogs, had made a mistake.  She thought she was protecting the house from a dangerous intruder, but it was only a 6 year old little girl.  At the vet's office they told my mom;"she is part chow-chow, there is no way to keep her in a house with children, you need to put her to sleep."  When my  mom came home without Josie it was too hard for her to tell us the truth.  The truth was, it was a lack of structure and training that set her up to fail, not just her DNA.  

A number of years later, my sister pushed and prodded my parents to get another dog.  She wrote them letters and made promises and eventually they got her a boxer we named Puck.  I have fond memories of snuggling with him, watching him run around the house like crazy, and seeing him sit on the couch like a person.  Other than that, most of the memories I have of him are terrifying.  There was that one time I came home from school to find that he had eaten a box of snail poison, or the time I let him off leash and he promptly ran away as fast as he could.  One time, he dragged my little brother down the street, and many times he escaped he ran head on towards moving cars.  The gates were constantly being reinforced, the trash cans latched shut, and the screen door replaced with plexiglass so that he could not destroy it.  At the time, we just thought "Puck was a crazy dog", and left it at that.  We had no idea that once again it was just a lack of structure and training that led to his insane behaviors.  

One day when I finally was an adult and thought that owning a dog was a responsible decision, I got my first dog.  From the time I got her at 8 weeks old, she was anxious, afraid, dominant, and aggressive.  In addition, this dog didn't care about food, or treats, or affection, or praise.  Within a few weeks of owning her I knew that if I didn't train her, she was going to end up biting someone and likely would get put to sleep.   This dog just wanted to do whatever she wanted to do, and I was either in the way of that or a part of it, those were the only options to her.  This is when I was really forced to understand not just how to teach a dog to sit, but how to teach a dog all about life and the world we live in.  To this day she still challenges me to learn how to be a better leader and dog owner, and for that I am always grateful.  

In the big scheme of things, it wasn't long ago that I was fearfully chasing my childhood dog down the street while it joyfully ran towards moving cars.  It wasn't that long ago that another childhood dog got put to sleep for biting a kid in the face.  It wasn't that long ago, when I got my first dog, and I realized I was in way over my head.  Looking back, the funny thing is, I don't even realize how far I have come.  I forget that at one time I had no idea what it was that made a person have a dog listen to them and follow them with no leash.  I just thought that people got "good dogs" that somehow just automatically understood what to do.  It was only the reality that my own dog showed me, that led me to start learning what I know now.  If not for her, I would still be in the dark.  

Eric Stokell