It Takes Two to Tango

Training a dog is a lot like attending ballroom dancing classes. Picture me, the trainer, as your instructor. Okay, put me in something tight and make me Spanish if it keeps your attention! You are the guy and your dog is the girl and you’ve signed up for six lessons of ballroom dancing so you can look really great on your wedding day.

Class one: I tell you how to be a good leader. Strong arms, fixed posture and just a touch ahead of the dance so you can coax your lady into position. Then I instruct your lady to anticipate your hand on your back and to let the hand lead you into your next move. I teach you how to listen to the beat of the music and the importance of “feeling” it. I send you home with homework to practice some simple steps together.

Week One at home: You practice a little, but get frustrated because your lady won’t let you lead. She’s not listening and she’s either telling you what to do or ignoring you. You give up on day two, but still think you can catch up in class with the help of the instructor.

Class two: You arrive feeling ready to catch up and learn. The music starts and you press your hand into your lady’s back, trying to lead her and….she steps on your foot. You take a deep breath and say, it’s OK, let’s try again. This is your soon to be lifemate after all…..The music starts again and you step back, your lady steps forward and you’re dancing! All is right with the world. You are sent home with homework and you are inspired to go out and dance!

Week Two at home: You have a busy week at home and cannot find the time to practice dancing with your lady.  On the last day of the week, before the next class, your lovely bride to be begins to complain…a lot. In response, you raise your voice and say, “C’mon! Lady!” She sheepishly responds, glad to have your attention and off you go around the kitchen like you were made for each other.

Class Three: You arrive and are in a heated discussion with your lady about your busy day.  You miss almost everything I say to you, but still think you can catch up.  You begin to dance, but you are tugging at your lady out of frustration. She gets annoyed and acts like she can’t hear anything you say. She’s dancing however she wants! You get even more annoyed and stomp off saying under your breath, “you’ll never learn to dance!”

What’s the moral of the story? It takes two to Tango? Most certainly, but in this case the lady (dog) was always willing and able, but you just didn’t give her the attention she needed in order to learn. And for that matter, you didn’t tune in often enough to learn to dance either. Too much talk and not enough action. Training a dog is like learning to dance. First you must learn the steps. Then you lead your dog to the steps, and then you dance the Tango together.  Learning to train a dog takes time.  You may make progress in some areas and lose ground in others. But always know your dog wants to do the right thing. Make sure you know how to lead and your dog will follow. Make the instructions clear and reward him when he gets it right and you will move forward. If you get mad or give up, you are failing the task at hand.  Slow down. Learn two steps at a time and smile! When you take dance lessons, you are learning and participating with humans. Never forget your dog is a different species…give him a break!