I recently completed my scholarship application for next year and decided to complete a supplemental essay for a shot at a dog training scholarship. I very much doubt I'll get it, as my experience is so limited and recent, and I'm not a small animal focus - but it was fun to write. In bold is the prompt, followed by my response. If you have a story to share - feel free to comment!
Concisely describe your interest and experience with dog training. Include the activities, your role and date(s) of the activities.
In theory, I have been a dog person my entire life. When faced with the real thing, I wasn’t sure.
I grew up with outside dogs that occasionally slept in the bed and went running with me, but I craved that mythical relationship like the ones I have read about in Terhune’s books. After working in a small animal veterinary clinic as an undergraduate, I saw dogs that jumped and whined and barked, destroyed things, were not housebroken, and thought leashes were to be tested for tensile strength. I decided that I was mistaken - I wasn’t a dog person after all.
Eventually, I decided I was ready. I had watched a close friend raise two puppies into well-behaved house dogs and companions, and I felt the childhood longing of a dog of my own. I did my breed research, read all the puppy books, and interviewed breeders. On May 14, 2011 I brought home a cute little Brittany pup. When Tess was 6 months old I realized that the traditional way of training - “no”, “leave it”, focusing on commands rather than games - wasn’t going to work. She was smart, inquisitive, and about to turn into something naughty. A classmate introduced me to positive training and clickers and I haven’t looked back. Tess is my constant companion and a role model for people who thought clickers and positive training was too permissive and only for the wackadoos.
I found out that training isn’t about creating a robot that will sit/recall/down/ or stay on command - instead it’s about building a relationship, about communicating with another species and learning something about yourself.
I’m new to owning a dog and to training, but I’m so excited about this type of training. Tess is quick to learn new things and to build on skills taught at earlier sessions. She’s so focused and enthusiastic during our lessons that people walking by often ask if I’ll train their dog. I love sharing my experiences, and I hope that others are inspired to explore and enjoy positive training and being with their dogs.
Before Tess I had trouble understanding the human-animal bond that inspired veterinarians to go into small animal practices, and the lengths people went to interact and provide for their dogs and cats. Actively training my dog and becoming a student of dog behavior and their interactions with people has made me a better person, and I know it will make me a better veterinarian.