Training in the Midst of Chaos

By Robert Forto

Lead Dog RevengeAre you tired of the endless stream of negativity, stress and confusion created by the chaos? I don’t care if you are talking about the economy, job, boss, colleague, your dog, or anything else. Thriving in chaos is a decision not to get sucked into a negative spiral. The choice is personal responsibility. There are ten considerations that are vital to thriving in chaos and training your dog in the midst of it. Alaska Dog Works is known to have the best trainers in the world and we can train the rest. This is why:

1. Communication. I wrote an entire doctorate dissertation on communicating with dogs and I like to think I am an expert on the subject. I have spent a great deal of my life in the company of dogs and I am a better communicator for it. Are you?

In your personal life do you paraphrase to clarify what you hear? Do you read between the lines or guess a person’s intent? Do you ask questions and continue to promote dialogue into a topic? Do you make conversations more about you and less about them?

A dog is such a simple soul. He needs a few rules; some exercise, an education, a balanced diet, a place to rest his weary head, and the companionship of a loving master to make him feel secure and happy. These are important ingredients for preventing dog problems. In communicating with him your tone of voice, your posture, your attitude, your understanding will speak eloquently to him. Above all, remember his mother; be fair, be firm, correct him when necessary, forgive him rapidly and love him well. Don’t you wish it was that easy to communicate with people?

2. Flexibility. In these ever changing times where everyone is asking for a bailout or a handout you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to shift your thinking and stay open to change.

In training your dog, continue to grow your skills, ask your trainer for additional tasks to work on until your next lesson, and be prepared to work through the challenges.

When Obama was campaigning he preached change, change, change. I haven’t seen it yet. Have you? But I have had to become more flexible because of this proposed change in my business and personal life. I have become a flexible thinker. Have you?

3. Empowerment. Dump the entitlement attitude and empower yourself to make a change. Nobody owes you anything, either at work, at home or in dog training. You do owe to yourself to be accountable for your every choice and every outcome.

While I am sure I will get in trouble for saying this from a fellow trainer or dog owner, people come to my school all the time and say that they went to a big-box-pet store and the trainer there was awful, or they didn’t teach them anything and their dog is worse now than it was before they started. Is that really true? No. The big-box-pet stores offer a method of training that may or may not fit into every pet owners lifestyle or training goals. But they are good at what they do, and what they do best is socialization. If you want more from your dog training classes sign up for private lessons and let the trainer work with you in developing a program to suit your needs. Don’t blame anyone for your transgressions or your lack of practice with your dog. Your dog does not have ESP and neither does your trainer. It takes practice to make perfect and practice takes effort.

4. Responsiveness. To be proactive in today’s society you must learn to respond quickly to changes in your daily activities. Reacting is simply knee-jerking, while responding involves learned skills, helping you make decisions more quickly. Never waste time and energy complaining.

When I am teaching people how to become certified canine instructors we discuss what I call the passive method: “Maybe it will go away.” Maybe it would not. “Maybe he’ll outgrow it.” “Maybe he would not.” Even if he will, it is a rather poor way to handle a dog problem. How many couches can you afford to lose waiting for him to outgrow the chewing stage? Some dogs left uncorrected, chew their way from birth to senility, but any dog can learn to be happy chewing a bone once he learns the no-no’s from the yes-yeses. This method does not work in our daily lives and most certainly does not work in training your dog. Be proactive and tackle that next challenge, no matter what it is, and respond!

5. Learning. You should always support and promote lifelong learning. Train yourself (and your dog) to be a learner by using books, tapes, training classes and other programs to enrich your lives. There is no greater satisfaction that learning something new and applying that knowledge in our daily lives. What was the last thing that you learned and how to you apply it today?

6. Innovate. Find different and better ways to solve problems. Learn how to become more creative by visiting your library or searching the Internet. In your quest in training your dog there are so many different and innovative techniques you can use to work through problems and training dilemmas. We at Denver Dog Works are all experts in learning theory and curriculum innovation. We take the most up to date methods and test them daily to see if what you saw on that National Geographic show really works and if we find that they do, or more importantly, don’t, we pass that along to our clients.

7. Cutting Back. In our daily lives we are all looking for ways to cut back on expenses and spending such as travel and entertainment. We are holding off buying new cars, appliances, and clothes. But did you know that Americans spend more on their pets that music, movies and video games combined? While I am not suggesting that you don’t pamper your pet. I am sure you do. I do splurge on occasion with mine. Use your money wisely and enroll in a dog training program that will give you a good return on your investment. Basic obedience, while a necessity to most, can save you thousands of dollars if your dog thinks your Italian leather couch is a chew toy, or a sports program such as agility or fly ball will provide you with endless hours of low cost fun for your family and your dog.

8. Energy. Stay enthusiastic and forward thinking. Make work fun and exciting. Allow negative discussion but respond with, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Times are tough. We all know that. Many people have lost their jobs, their retirement, their 401K, and everything else. As a small business owner I am feeling the fear of this economy but I am not letting me get me down. I am taking advantage of this time to start new marketing programs and training classes. Did you know that the businesses that made it through the great depression of the 1930’s did not sit back and have a wait and see attitude? They went for it and challenged the normal way of thinking.

In terms of dog training and energy; make your training fun with your dog. Dog training classes are very affordable and allow you to get out of the drudge of the day-to-day stressors and make a difference in you and your dog’s relationship and bond and it just might bring your family closer together as well.

9. Accountability. You should be a role model for others by taking responsibility for every decision that you make. Know that you always have three choices: take it, leave it, or change it. So challenge yourself by asking, “So, what’s the plan?” If you are a Denver Bronco fan I am sure you know that our quarterback is not only being a cry baby and asking for a trade because he doesn’t like the coach but it also shows that he has no accountability for his actions. In terms of dog training: do you want to be the owner who’s dog is always getting into fights at the dog park or who jumps on your friends and family when they come over for dinner? No? Then make a choice and change that behavior and enroll in a dog training class or two.

10. Goals. In your daily life you must have a clear account of your goals and keep them in mind at all times. You will not be able to thrive in the chaotic time if you do not have clear objectives. The same goes with dog training. Often we hear from a client that they want their dog to perform at a certain level in a brief period of time and often that is not possible. There are T.V. shows on that fuel this obsession. We are an immediate gratification culture. We want it all and we want it now. That is not just not possible in dog training, or anything else in life for that matter.

So I encourage you, go out there and make a difference. Go out there and change somebody’s life for the better. Make your business better if you are an entrepreneur or your company better if you are an employee. Make your dog happier by giving him the greatest gift of all: training. Yes, times are tough but don’t let the chaos change your lives. Go out and empower change because we can’t wait for someone else to do it.


Robert Forto is the host of The Dog Works Radio  Show and is the training director of Alaska Dog Works and The Ineka Project in Colorado. Robert Forto can be reached through his website at