Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
I’ve been a professional dog trainer for a long time, since 1999. Sit me down over a bottle of wine for a chat about behavior science and I can hold my own with any of my peers and many of my mentors (better than I can hold the wine probably). I’ve got the credentials. I’ve got the education. I’ve got the google reviews. And yes, I’ve even got the t-shirt (more than a few). And, let’s be honest; I’m proud of all of that.
But, let me also be honest with myself. None of that – none of the dogs and clients that have come before – matter as much as the next dog and the next client. This work is humbling. There is no room for bravado or hubris. No flippant mention of the hundred dogs I’ve seen or the hardest cases I’ve solved will get me through my next consultation if I’m not humble enough to take it on like it’s my first. Bring your A-game, yes. But, as the saying goes, leave your pride at the door. That dog won’t be fooled. He may not bite me on the hand but he will cut me at the knees and bring me fumbling back to basics faster than I can say where I earned my last degree.
Note to self, all of this. Preaching comes easier than the practice.
I am deep into a continuing education course as I write this. It’s meaty content – still dog training, but outside my area of expertise. Learning is hard work, grit and grind. It’s the gift of taking pause and taking in what you don’t know. Opening the mind, rearranging all the old truth to make room for the new. It’s the gift, too, of humility – standing less rigidly – bowing more with arms outstretched – the weight of ego falling away to make room for the heft of knowledge.
This is why I think of you, my clients, so often these days because I am also bending and learning the way you have. It’s hard wrapping myself around the newness and the knowledge. I’ve been inspired by you – so open to learning, so kind, and smart. I’m inspired by your dogs, so willing to risk, so eager to take on the world, hungry to loosen and adapt. Learning is hard and I’m reminded now each day of how well you do it. Sure a tough case will cut me down if I’m too stiff and haughty. But, more often you lift me up, kind learners and your dogs. You are the heroes of my day’s work, day in and day out. Your artful skill of taking in and applying new information so quickly and with such aplomb takes my breath. I don’t admit it often much less preach it enough. But, here I am – less on my high horse than on my little soap box – calling it out so everyone knows. You, dear people and you, beloved dogs. You make me look smart. And, I am as grateful for that as I am humbled by your awesomeness.
Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston TX. He specializes in aggressive dog training.