My Dog is Training Me

tuukkadaniellegrass1I thought it was about time that I gave you an update on my journey with my little 70-pound dog Tuukka. (If you haven’t yet read about my challenges, definitely read my “Why Can’t I Train My Dog?” blog first! It will make all of this make more sense!)

As many of you know, Tuukka fell into our laps last October. It was three months after our beloved dog Kelso had passed and six months after our beloved dog Bella had passed. Needless to say, 2014 was a tough year for us and we weren’t exactly looking for another dog right away.

But when the universe speaks, we’ve learned to listen and Tuukka entered our lives like a tornado! Or more accurately, like thunder (Tuukka means thunder in Finnish)!

So, Tuukka comes thundering into our lives, causing chaos, messing up my clean floors, and shedding her white fur all over my red sofa. And we loved her for it but realized that we needed help training her to be part of our family. As you probably already know, this was a tough decision for me because part of me questioned why I wasn’t “good enough” to train her myself (after all, I’m an animal communicator – I should be rockin’ the training!).

She’s now been back from her month long training session for two weeks and it’s made a world of difference – but not in the way you might think. Yes, she’s walking beautifully on the leash now, yes she’s minding calls for her now, and yes she more mellow.

But something else shifted while she was away as well.

And I didn’t realize it until the other day when my husband Kevin, my son Cole and I were driving to Cole’s hockey game. Kevin suddenly swerved the car to get out of the way of another car that was driving in the middle of two lanes on the highway. When Cole asked what had happened, Kevin grumbled, “People don’t know how to drive!” This prompted Cole to say, “Mom does. Mom is a perfectionist in everything.”

It wasn’t until later that evening that I began thinking about what Cole had said. In many respects, he’s right. I like to do things well and right and in the time frame I committed to and this is something that has brought me great success.

But being a perfectionist isn’t always a good thing – and it certainly wasn’t with Tuukka.

One of the biggest pieces I learned from the trainer at the end of Tuukka training camp was to ease up and let Tuukka have more leeway. For example, on walks – I was frustrated because I wanted her to walk exactly next to me, not a little ahead and not a little behind. I wanted her to walk perfectly!

But when I took into account what the trainer said, and allowed Tuukka a couple more feet of leash, she actually did a great job!

Was it the “perfect” job I had wanted her to do in the past? No. But it was actually much better – because I wasn’t tense about her not doing things right and she was enjoying herself having a couple more feel of leeway.

And now, Tuukka and I have reached an awesome balance in our relationship. Is it perfect? Definitely not! I don’t expect her to be perfect anymore – and it’s so much easier! And it allows me to stop trying to be perfect all the time myself.

I love how, by delving into the balance between an animal and their human, so much can be revealed and understood. I love how, despite how much I know about animals and their connections to humans I am STILL learning!

And I KNOW that you all can keep learning too from the animals in your life!

Stay tuned as well as I’ll keep updating you on the Tuukka/Danielle saga as things continue to evolve!

Love & Light,


14 replies
  1. Jane
    Jane says:

    I think we humans need to acknowledge if the walk is intended for us–or for the good of our dog. The dog wants/needs exercise, elimination, relief from boredom, companionship, stimulation, etc. I don’t “walk” my dogs–we usually ramble. As long as they don’t roughly tug me, I consider their input as to our route, when to stop and smell, and when to gaze into the horizon. A wise vet told me that at least 50% of a dog’s stimulation comes through his nose. Mine are allowed to sniff and explore (whenever it is not invasive or dangerous!).

    When the walk is truly for MY benefit, to unwind and exercise, I put on my jogging shoes and the dogs match my gait perfectly. It’s our pact.

  2. brenda
    brenda says:

    Wow, that’s awesome Danielle. Wonderful how you learned something about your pet when you took her to school to learn. I had a beautiful doberman once that I took to KY command for training. She was totally neglected by her owners and it only took 11 days to have her voice command trained as well as obedience trained. Very smart dog. She taught me a lot as well. She passed about 12 yrs ago. Have had many new pets since and each one is a personality all their own. Couldn’t live without them.

  3. Chrissy
    Chrissy says:

    Excellent post! As a dog trainer and behavior consultant I’m so pleased that you are finding what works for both of you. We need to teach our dogs and we also need to respect who they are. There is a give and take that is often forgotten about.

  4. Susanne
    Susanne says:

    For a dog, going for a walk can be compared to humans being on social media. Dogs think it´s super exciting to sniff at everything and check out who´s been where and what´s going on. Just like humans are excited to check out what´s going on on their social media.
    When you train a dog to just walk right next to you all the time, you take away all the fun for him. Let him be on a long leash, let him sniff at everything and have his dog fun. The need to have the dog walk “perfectly” right next to you comes from your ego and your need to be in power and control and it´s not a good quality. Most of the time it´s also about impressing other people with our “well behaved” dog. But a “well-behaved” dog does not mean a happy dog, it means a dog that has learned to obey a humans ego. We should all strive toward letting go of our egos desires and start understanding and thinking with our hearts.

  5. Susanne
    Susanne says:

    Where does this idea come from that animals should behave “perfectly” according to what humans wants? Animals are not here to be slaves for humans, they are our friends, companions, teachers. Humans are conditioned to behave in certain ways by school/media etc. (and it´s not a good thing!) and then humans go on conditioning animals to behave “perfectly”, as Danielle puts it, according to their own desires. What about freedom? All animals seek freedom, just like humans did before they were conditioned to let go of our need for freedom and just obey…. Since we enter school we are conditioned to obey authorities. And so many people want their dogs to just obey them without understanding their need for freedom. When I saw the picture of Tuukka on teh other blog post, I actually started laughing, I just intuitively got the sense that she´s just having fun! 🙂 Just saying this because I hope more people will take into concideration animals need for freedom and that they actually have a sense of humor! Like my cat, when she sees that I´m about to enter a room, she goes and hides behind the door and jumps out to surprise me when I enter! It´s hilarious! And she does this all the time! She makes me laugh so much! Animals also wanna have fun and make their humans laugh, and I think people often don´t understand this, and mistake it for “bad” behavior and then they send their fun loving animals on training camps to learn to “behave”…..

  6. Jenaire Lewandowski
    Jenaire Lewandowski says:

    Hello Danielle, I am at the other end. I have a tiny tiny tiny Yorkie who came into my life last year and thought this should be easy however I later discovered having a less than 3 lb doggie was not easy at all. First he needs baths almost every two days as he manages to wet himself up going to pee and he is very fussy about food. Give him too much and he gets overwhelmed. If I give him something one day he may eat it the second day but doesn’t like leftovers and this is with regular human food. But he and I are in love with each other. He is my 6th doggie. He challenges me to be creative with food.

  7. Christine
    Christine says:

    I love how your son Cole reflected back to you what his perception is of you!! My children remind me constantly of the areas I need to grow, change and learn. My dogs are a bit more “subtle” with their messages

  8. Victoria Schneider
    Victoria Schneider says:

    GREAT ARTICLE, Danielle! We’ve had 13 dogs in the last 34 years of our marriage. We’ve said “Farewell for now!” to 11 of them. We still have two…and one of them makes Tukka looks like a “Saint of the Dog World!” AND….THEY are STILL teaching ME! Honestly, I’m convinced! The one who just passed 6 months ago, Maggie, our beautiful, blind basset hound, gave me the greatest advice right before she passed and now I’m back, taking my Flower Essences – which are a HUGE God-send to our Anna Rose (Tukka’s “no-comparison” counterpart!) So…KUDOS to you and TUKKA on your “schooling journey” together. You’re both AMAZING STUDENTS!

  9. Cynthia Russak
    Cynthia Russak says:

    After our Siberian Husky, a rescued dog from one of our neighbors who couldn’t manager her, died in 2012, I said I would never get another dog though I sort of wanted one. I am nearly recovered from a sore knee where she pulled me over a few times. You can’t let dogs run anymore. Well, cats came to my porch, had kittens, which we rescued and found homes for, another long animal tale. I have the parents, both neutered, and as they are feral, won’t let anyone touch them. I am standing back and hoping they get used to me. They sleep in the house every night. My problem is getting them to the vet in the future. They are nice animals, but have seen the way they torture smaller animals, such as chipmunks. I’m glad the chipmunks are staying away now, but saw an unbelievable boxing match between the black cat and a chipmunk last week. I was able to rescue it and hope it found a new home far away from the house.

  10. Marisa Slaiby
    Marisa Slaiby says:

    Hello Danielle, I had taken Kody to a place for training in middle town RI they train Police dogs. I have to say it was two weeks missed him terribly when he came home I felt that his spirit was gone.. I would never again do a training course like that again. We took him there because being a golden doodle he loved to eat things like rocks. But I now understand him and somehow he is much better . I agree he is not perfect but love him the way he is.. We also have a Tibetan terrier too love him as well… A few years ago I contacted you about my Lhasa Karli “” who passed .. Have not heard from her at all. Not sure why still miss her. I’m sorry about your other dog who passed and happy you found another love.. Marisa Slaiby

    • Melissa
      Melissa says:

      I agree w/your observations about some of the training out there. It seems as though their intent is to break their spirit which breaks my heart. (I had a similar experience w/a pitbut) It’s so worth the time to investigate the trainers. I believe the ones who honor the dog while doing their jobs are out there, just need to see proof of positive reinforcement and not submissive training…urggh).

  11. Alyssa
    Alyssa says:

    Go Tuukka! Farley and Kayley have been training me for years. It is an awesome lesson to learn to lighten up on that perfectionism, isn’t it?

    Love, Light and wags from the pus!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *