Baxter Abel: Training The Trainer

Baxter+Hudson April 2016

Baxter and Hudson

A month ago, on Easter Sunday, we brought Baxter home from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn. An enormous yellow lab, we joke Baxter is part Labrador, part polar bear and all Abel.

What little we know of Baxter’s backstory (or Baxstory – get it?), he was picked up on the streets of the Bronx and spent several months in the shelter. He came to us with food aggression, toy aggression and 18-month old Lab energy.

What to do when love and good intentions are not enough in a cozy Brooklyn home? Call an expert, of course. In our case, the gifted and infinitely patient Dani Santanella of Urban K9.

Make no mistake; Dani is gifted with Baxter and patient with my husband and me.

From the get go, at least on person every day has asked me, “are you sticking with the training?”

Quitting is an option? Whaaaat???

As the most encouraging “dog people” have told me, “it’s hard work but so worth it” (thank you Steph Sterling!)

Isn’t that true of everything??

So this is what my media-training-on-camera-and-social-media-coaching self is reminded everyday, twice a day as I have committed to our Dani-designed regimen of hand-feeding and sit stay/down stay commands:

Time – at first an hour a day seemed like a lot. I was sure I couldn’t find an extra hour without it impacting my business or home life. Even the 2x per day, 30 minutes each we put into practice seemed like a stretch. But guest what? In practice, it’s not a lot of time. I’m getting everything done I was doing before AND I’m training a dog. You can find the time to practice your on-camera technique or write your blog or…

Intention – be clear on your goals and make sure those goals are grounded in reality – with an action plan you can realistically commit to. See time above.

Trust – trust the help of experts. You cannot succeed in your goals if you are not open. If you are regularly second-guessing your coach/trainer/advisor/mentor ask yourself why (beware of seeing out people who only tell you what you want to hear) and depending on the answer either re-commit or find another expert you do trust.

Baxter and I did not immediately have a connection. He bonded immediately with my husband and son but not me. Training is an act of trust and the mutual trust required has bonded us in a wonderful way.

Methodology – find a methodology that works and stick to it. It takes time. We know it takes humans up to 60 days to develop a habit. The jury is out on how long it takes a dog to develop a habit but I am seeing dramatic progress with Baxter after 14+ focused training sessions per week. The repetition is important.

With that said, as with any endeavor, it’s not always linear. Many days feel like two steps forward and one step (or more) back. It’s part of the learning process. Don’t let it get you down or derail you. Look at what’s working and tweak or adapt as needed.

Body Language – body language is hugely important in presenting and yet many young hosts and experts overlook this and focus strictly on their content. What an aha! when Dani pointed out Baxter wasn’t listening to certain commands (see look at what’s working above) because of my body language!

Rewards – the vet reminded me not to stint on treats and rewards. It’s part of our bonding process and keeps it fun. Remember to treat yourself well!

The extraordinary bonus I am feeling since getting over the first hump with Baxter: Balance.

  • Jen B

    I love this!! Lots of these fantastic points can be applied to most anything “new” we do. As Yoda says, “Do. Or Do Not. There is no try.” It’s not about the try, it’s about the doing, about the being, being a dog owner that does the training, being a kick-ass entrepreneur coach and agent that you work at everyday through blogging, coaching, teaching!! Anyone can be the woman, or the man, they want when they step into the being. Thank you for sharing! You are the BEST!!

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