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The Dog That Humbles You

I recently took in a foster. A whole 38 pounds of pure chaos, sweetness, kangaroo hops, cuddles, and shark teeth all rolled into one Belgian Malinois. Naturally I had to pick her up at the adolescent age. You know, the age where they aren't baby, baby puppy anymore but instead are tiny teenagers that think they can get away with everything? This dog humbles me every day.

Let's back up. Hi, I'm Megan. I'm a canine trainer, and I own Golden Retrievers. There's a reason I own Golden Retrievers. They are America's family dog. I have three young children. Goldens are highly trainable. I'm a trainer, and I like trainable. They are loyal, sweet, and generally an easy dog. Who doesn't like that?

Someone once told me you should be a trainer for eight years before even considering a Malinois. I hit eight years, so what did I do? I went and got one. That makes it sound impulsive. It wasn't. Hold on before you jump on the judgement train, because we are all about thoughtful decisions over here, especially when it comes to committing to animals as family members.

My heart has been pulled this direction for a while. Years, actually. I've been blessed enough to be a part of over 1,000 dogs' training journeys in the past eight years of my career, and I knew from training a variety of breeds that I wanted to branch out. So I waited. I waited a long time. And although there is never a perfect time, this year the little rogue monster kind of fell into my lap.

I drive halfway across the country, pick her up, bring her home, and go "I don't know what I'm doing." A thousand dogs later, and the fear of "I don't want to mess this dog up" is very real. It's the knowing when you look back on every dog you've owned and acknowledge where your shortcomings are. The things you'd do different with the next one. It's also the way I know I'm in the right line of work. It's always humbling, challenging, rewarding, and fun. You constantly grow with each dog that teaches you something new. How lucky am I!

So for the last month our journey has begun. She has a name. Her name is Rogue. She is still a foster. No, she is not a foster fail. Yes, we plan to adopt her and have planned to do so all along. No, we have not adopted her yet. Yes, we want to make sure she is a good fit for our family. No, we don't know when we will adopt her and we absolutely will take our time with this decision, all while she is being trained and loved on. And yes, we applaud this rescue for supporting our decision to allow us to take our time to ensure Rogue is a great fit for us, because the RIGHT family will define her success.

This dog is perfectly imperfect. She likes to snuggle with the kids. On top of them and in their faces only. There is zero ability to lay nicely beside them. She also thinks that every house fly deserves to be murdered, so don't get your hand between her and those creatures. She's moody at times, and she seems to be a little confused about her species, as she has the climbing skills of a cat. She's smart. She's ten steps ahead of me in training, and she keeps me on my toes. She wants to latch onto my pant legs constantly, but her "oh shoot that wasn't right" look is developing. She wants to work hard. So we work hard together by attending classes and seminars. She thinks she's allowed in my bed. My husband thought she was cute, prior to that epiphany. Yesterday she chewed on my daughter's barbie. Am I trainer? Oh wait... I think so (don't worry - we quickly put in a practice session about leaving kid toys alone). The management requirements are real, her capabilities are endless, and the things she has taught me are invaluable.

No, she's not perfect, but she's pretty incredible. She forces me to eat humble pie on the daily. Who trains who anyways? Do we really train the dog, or does the dog train us? Hopefully both.

*And here is my ploy to kindly remind you that this breed of dogs is not for 99.99% of people. These dogs need jobs. They were created for bitework, and they'll let you know it.

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About The Author: Megan is the owner and lead trainer of Havana Dog Training. She has been training canines for over 8 years and specializes in behavior modification, foundational work, and working with families and young children.

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