No, I mean really individual
As many of you know I am always talking about how each dog is an individual. Many breeds have specific traits which are commonly seen and can be seen in mixes of that breed. But when you really breakdown a dog and their behavior; they can be radically different. Through my years of training I have seen this a great deal. When I was doing group classes; they were small enough that I could take some one on one time for each dog and their family. Listening to them as they explained specific issues with their individual dog allowed me to help that individual dog and the owners.
After many group classes I moved onto private in-home training which enabled me to really fine tune training and help each dog and their family more specifically. It amazes me how many trainers have one way of doing things. Once you start working with dogs you quickly realize that they are all very, very different. Having one bag of training tricks is a handicap because as great as you might think that your one way is; it will not work on all. Being flexible is essential in being a good dog trainer. The next most important thing is to listen; if you aren't listening you won't understand the small differences that an owner is trying to describe.
Dissecting behavior is what I do; not just when I'm on a training call but all the time. Watching each and every move and breaking it down to fractional signals is huge. When people find out that I am a trainer I often am tossed immediate questions. "My dog does...." I try to help but a really great answer could take a lot of time. Each answer brings up more questions until I can get to the bottom of a problem. Even then, if I am relying solely on the owner to give me the answers then I might not be able to help. I often need to see a dog in action myself or at least meet the dog in their home.
What drives a dog can be so different. Life experiences, genetic make up and environmental stimulus all play a huge role in making your dog, yours. This past weekend I was once again reminded how different Penny is from Luke and Elsa. Even though Elsa has very high drive she is not triggered by motion like Penny is. A oscillating stream of water was coming through the back fence when Penny spotted it. Luckily I spotted it right at the same time. I ran and grabbed her just as she was slipping into her trance state. She is very triggered by motion and if you don't catch her before she indulges, it is very difficult. Elsa stood watching Penny, not understanding what she was after.
They are all so very different. I cooked up some great food on the weekend, both for the dogs and the humans. I made Luke and Elsa's food and threw some leftover shrimp into Elsa's bowl. I was shocked to see her eat everything but the shrimp. She'd eaten shrimp before and loved them; but they had been prepared deliciously, these were simple cold cocktail shrimp and she was not a fan of these rubbery, tasteless little things. Oddly enough Luke was a fan and ate every one. How funny.
Each dog is so very individual; from their tastes, drive, motivation, triggers and fears. Their exterior can be vastly different or very cookie cutter like but inside lies the heart of a very individual and special dog like no other.