Sometime ago, I enrolled my rescue pup, Louie, in a dog training class. I did so because if all went well, perhaps he could move into agility training at some point.
I filled out the online form and was hoping for an opportunity to share more detail on Louie’s issues, but that would have to wait. I received a call requesting that I attend the first class alone, without Louie. This was reminiscent of when the principal would come to my grade school classroom requesting my presence in her office ASAP. That happened more than I care to admit. I wondered why I needed to go to obedience training without Louie. I immediately started down the path of, “I am not the one with the issues. He needs to
get started as soon as possible and I should not waste any time learning the rules of the game.”
But off I went to the class with about 12 other dog owners. As we filled out our papers, I finally saw my opportunity to share more about Louie. There was a very small space on the paper to express my concerns which I completely filled and added additional comments in the side margins. But my anxiety level increased as I listened to others talk about their dogs.
I let out a long sigh as I pictured Louie in the training ring with other dogs that were much bigger and had even more problems than Lou. I wasn’t sure I was up for my one night a week session with crazy Louie who will no doubt be crazier with several other dogs with similar or worse issues. What was I thinking? It is OBEDIENCE class. Perfect dogs do not attend obedience class. It is mostly dogs who have issues…like Louie! And the trainer made it clear; this is not a time of socialization, this is for obedience. Oh boy—here we go!
As stressful as the first session was, the obedience class provided ample opportunity for me to learn a few leadership lessons:
- First, when I returned home, I practiced the basics with Louie using his favorite treat – mozzarella cheese. He did really well. I was reminded of one of my favorite lines by Vince Lombardi, “Gentlemen, this is a football!” I realized I needed to constantly reinforce the fundamentals with Louie.
- The next day, when my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were visiting, Louie was scrounging around for crumbs. I made him sit on his bed by the window and wait until we were done eating. As I walked into the kitchen, he slowly slipped away from his bed and quietly made his way back to my family. I had to make him go back and sit on his bed several times. Some lessons must be taught repeatedly!
- And finally, as I was walking Louie with one of his friends, Allie, her mom kindly suggested I be a stronger leader to Louie. She was absolutely correct. And my trainer reminded me of that as well in that Louie is a control freak and needs to know I am in charge. This is another one of those leadership lessons I’m still learning – the need to continually establish my authority with Louie.
Honestly, I sometimes grow weary of leading anyone or being in charge of anything, much less a dog who should obey my every command. But what a delight when I return to the basics with Lou, and he immediately gets it. Seeing his response encourages me to continue to drill the fundamentals and prepare for the next level. It is not easy and, at times, it is not fun. However, it
is incredibly rewarding. The same holds true for parents and for leaders in the workplace. As a leader, I am committed to press through once again and each level gets easier with time.