BELIEVE. Accept and love the dog for who it is in any given moment, but believe in the great things it is capable of….now and in the more distant future.
Bringing out the best in an animal requires finesse and the building of confidence. In my experience, most people have no idea of what their dog is capable of doing or becoming. They settle for what they see in front of them. They are often flabergasted by the difference they see when I step in and play with their dog, even if it’s just for a few minutes. What they haven’t noticed is that before I ever offer to work with a dog, I am pretty sure it wants to work with me. I have flirted with it from afar. I have successfully made eye contact. I have said “hello” (see the post on saying “hello”). I may have spoken to it in a silly tone of voice most dogs like. I may have (with the dog’s blessing) approached it. I may have given it a treat or two. If it approached me, I may have loved on it in a way it seemed to enjoy (made myself useful and relevant). The dog (via their body language) dictates how I proceed….I don’t ever assume anything because each dog is a unique individual. So before I ever offer to step in, I have already laid the foundation for a partnership. I have a dog that is not only interested in me, but curious and optimistic. Any teaching I do is received well because I have a volunteer who wants to work with me.
A solid relationship (even a budding one) sets the stage for greatness. Try to put the relationship first. Use etiquette on your part (show them that you understand that space is important by exercising restraint on your approaches), flirt, make time for genuine pauses, make yourself useful and relevant. Have their back while helping them develop bounce back and problem solving skills in the world at large (being a part of the successful navigation of a mildly stressful situation through to the positive end is a very meaningful and powerful boost for any relationship).
A large part of successfully training any animal is about knowing what you have in front of you (what you are working with) in the moment. Set aside expectations, assumptions, and ambitions. Take a look. Notice little things. What has this breed been bred to do? How is it feeling….willing? distracted? scared? tired? sore? hungry? bored? Let what you have in front of you in the moment dictate what you do next… the activity you choose, the behavior you work on, your short term goal.