Dog training

Dog training teaches life lessons from teacher

Tripper and his student trainer, Leah Ohm, graduated in 2021 from Gould Academy.

BETHEL – Tripper, named after the canoe, is a good citizen canine dog, but she has been much more than that to her family and peers.

“I think the special thing about Tripper is his temper in these tough times for young people,” says Sarah Shifrin, Tripper’s mom. “That she is very patient. She gives them a lot of love. I think that during this period, young people need this little touch of home, this human touch because COVID has weakened young people. It’s just a very safe reminder of the house. She reads, tolerates and accepts children’s emotional need for a doggy hug. I think it’s as unique and important in these times as an educator.

Did Tripper teach Shifrin, the educator, any lessons? In fact, the answer turned out to be a big “yes!” When Shifrin was training Tripper for the Canine Good Citizen test, she had to remember to think about Tripper’s needs first.

“If I don’t consider their needs first, their perspective first, what I want won’t even matter,” says Shifrin. “So if Tripper behaves badly, I just can’t tell him to go lie down. I have to think first, why is she behaving badly? Is she misbehaving because she has to go out? Is she misbehaving because she is thirsty? Is she misbehaving because she saw a squirrel and prefers to be outside?

As she asks these questions, other questions have arisen.

“So what Tripper reminded me of as an educator is that if I want a certain type of behavior, I have to consider it first,” Shifrin continues. “So, as a teacher, when I’m working with kids, I just can’t come in and sit still, stay. I have to think, how do they enter my environment? Are they well rested? Are they worried about something? Do they have something in mind? If I don’t think of them first, I can never get them to do what I think they should be doing. So training Tripper as a puppy reminded me that I must first consider where she is.

Shifrin describes how she can only get her students to understand what she wants to teach them by understanding where they are on that day. Just like working with Tripper, she has to put students and all their needs first, before she can teach them. Ignoring this step would result in Tripper not trusting her and therefore not cooperating with the training process, or her students would not respect her if they were not heard first and it could prevent them from doing their homework.

“Because dog training is all about trust,” says Shifrin. “She’s not going to sit down because she wants to sit down. She is going to sit down because she likes the relationship of trust that we have, it feels good. So kids aren’t going to do homework because they’re like, I can’t wait to do my homework, they’re going to do it because they think it benefits them somehow.

“So she just reminded me that I have a powerful position as a teacher, a powerful position as a dog owner,” concludes Shifrin “It just reminds me, to get what you want you have to first consider where they are, what they need, how they might want to get there, and then you have a better chance of achieving your goal.

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