Life at Doglando: Kids & Dogs

We’ve talked about how kids and dogs are so similar before, and you know we love bringing these two groups together through initiatives like Camp Doglando. Today, Victor is going to dive a bit deeper into that idea!

As a puppy parent have you ever thought to yourself, “Man, my dog is so much like my kid sometimes!” I don’t have children, but I know that as a trainer I think this from time to time.

Having a background working with kids has been a huge help with my transition into the Doglando team. In my experience, if you want to be truly successful with kids, there are some key things to pay attention to:

  • Relationships
  • Attention
  • Environment

These three pillars are so important to build up with each kid you mentor and spend time with. Being aware of these things actually made the transition into dog training easier, too!

Rules without relationship breeds rebellion

In the social circles I hung around with while working with kids, a certain saying was passed around from leader to leader. It was simple:

Rules without relationship breeds rebellion.

That’s just a fancy way of saying that you can’t expect kids to want to do what you ask of them if there’s no relationship between you and that kid… Even if what you’re asking will better the child’s life.

My first month at Doglando solidified this principle. I remember working with a particular dog during the first few weeks of my tenture.

I kept trying to perform a recall (calling the dog over to me), but it just wasn’t working the way I envisioned it. I racked my brain for what the issue could be.

First I thought that it was the way I was saying it. Maybe my cadence was off a bit and it was confusing the dog. I changed my recall a bit expecting different results, but you can probably guess what happened.

Frustrated, I remembered a crucial fact I was taught about dog training: Relationships with the dogs are important, too!

We do all kinds of exercises to build relationships with our dogs. From massaging our dogs to playing with them, we at Doglando always try to keep in mind that we’re “cashing in” with our dogs. We deliberately use every positive interaction we can possibly create to build stronger bonds with individual dogs. This in turn helps us to work with the dogs more effectively.

Kids think this way too!

My first student I had the privilege of mentoring was slow to open up about his life. Instead of forcing him to talk to me, I simply made myself available. We hung out regularly and our bond began to grow tremendously. Before I knew it, my student was asking me for advice about things he wouldn’t even mention to his parents. A relationship can shatter walls that kids and dogs put up much quicker and more effectively than the best regime of rules and structure on the planet.

How to keep the attention of kids and dogs

Kids and dogs seem to have a hidden cache of energy we adults dream of harnessing. Both also tend to leave behind those who can’t keep up. I equivocate that to a shortened attention span.

If I’m not actively moving and talking with our dogs I’ll never get a response from them. I wouldn’t be able to build solid relationships from dog to dog, or teach individuals new skills to practice and master.

Occasionally, I’m given the awesome opportunity to speak with students. I lead all kinds of activities, from game times to offerings from a stage with a microphone. If I’m on stage with high energy and a good vocal pitch, I seem to hold kids’ attention better. Inversely, if I’m sluggish in my actions and never really project my voice I’d lose every kid in the room.

Both scenarios are fixed with an upbeat and enthusiastic energy that I choose to carry. (I say choose because I tend to be more melancholic and reserved, so acting with energy is the complete opposite of what I’d consider comfortable.)

If I’m excited about what I’m doing and I bring a high level of energy into it, I’ll always get better responses from both kids and dogs.

The environment is everything

Both kids and dogs are also shaped by the collection of their experiences. I talked to Teena once about this and something she said really stuck out. I can’t remember what she said verbatim, but she mentioned that experiences help commit things to memory.

We can’t have experiences if we’re not immersed in the environment around us. The environment is crucial to the creation of the experience.

Doglando has an awesome physical environment. With acres of grass and various pieces of equipment for our dogs to choose from, we foster interaction with the environment and our dogs. This allows us to give them experiences that they can later draw back on in similar scenarios.

For example, our sand yard has sand in it so that when our dogs come into contact with sand somewhere else they’ll already know how to deal with it.

I meet with many of my students in a youth building in Orlando. It’s the only one of its kind in the area. This environment alone helps me to be so much more effective as a leader because it’s somewhere the kids love to be.

When it comes to working with kids and dogs, this is just the beginning

There are so many crossovers and connections between working with both kids and dogs. I’ve personally only begun to scratch the surface of this concept and look forward to learn even more. When I do you’ll be the first to know! Until next time!