The Dog Trainer’€™s Dark Side

As Seen In The Patch March 27, 2011

The hardest thing to control in life, is not a dog…it’s your temper. 

I’m proud to admit that I have a reputation for patience. Whether presiding over the first chaotic moments of a new group dog training class, sitting in a client’s kitchen listening to a long list of canine misbehaviors or guiding my daughter through the complex and sometimes volatile social strata of first grade, I manage to keep my cool. Often, clients call me for a quick “talk through” when dog training frustrations crop up. I help them see the world from the dog’s perspective so their dog’s behavior makes sense. “Don’t yell at your dog,” I counsel. “Understand your dog.”

But I have a dark side. There is a member of my household who tests my patience and regularly brings me to the boiling point. In frustration, I blame. I curse. I say unforgivable things and imagine myself landing a good, firm slap. It’s true and I’ll admit it here: sometimes I hate my computer.

Most days, my Mac and I are the best of friends. I love its colorful screen saver, its gently glowing status light. I turn it on, it chimes in a reassuring way and we start to work. We hum right along, tweeting, updating, submitting. I love you, MacBook Pro! We’re a team! And then it happens. I can’t find an important file. Another is slow to open…so slow that I start pressing random keys. Why? Why are you doing this to me? I hate you, MacBook Pro! You’re an unfathomable hunk of junk!

The good news is, I have sought professional help for my issues. Under the tutelage of Michael Schechter of Computer Experts Group, Ltd., I’m learning to have more patience with technology. He is teaching me that computers cannot be bad but they can become overwhelmed, especially when the caregiver starts pressing random keys, tossing important files into the trash and yelling.

Michael knows computers like I know dogs and he is helping me see the world from my computer’s perspective. “Relax,” he tells me. “Envision the problem and use your common sense to work through the occasional snag.” Pretty much exactly what I tell my clients about their dogs. Huh.

Oh Michael. You are so wise.

By admitting to my technological shortcomings and seeking professional help, I feel calmer and more empathetic towards this once-unknowable and stress-inducing part of my life. For many dog owners, their pet’s mysterious behavior leaves them feeling similarly out of control. Some dog owners seek help to build a better relationship but others just keep hitting the random keys…and the problems persist or worsen.

The key to improving any relationship – with your dog, your children, your spouse or your computer – is knowledge and patience.

My advice? Read some books, hire a professional — learn all about the emotional life of dogs. And be glad — a dog is not nearly as complicated as a computer…and a computer will never ever rest his head in your lap.