Basic Instincts

When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that’s when passion is born – Zig Ziglar

I’m pretty good with dogs. I understand them. I can read their body language. I know how to communicate with them. That’s why I have a job with Darwin Dogs. But, it wasn’t instinctual for me from the beginning. Let me tell you about the first dog I had when I was growing up.

His name was Shadow. I obviously named him after Shadow from Homeward Bound. That’s what I thought he would be. My best friend. A rock. The best dog, EVER.

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Shadow is the golden in the middle. Although, these days I think I’d prefer to have Chance, the American Bulldog on the left

My Shadow was a Corgi. Most Corgis you  meet are very friendly, easy going, don’t bark too much. Yeah, not Shadow. He was a very ornery dog. Extremely ornery. He barked all the time. He talked back. He wouldn’t listen. He would tear up clothing, steal tissues out, and go through the garbage. He wouldn’t even let you pet him. He’d pretend he’d wanted to be pet and then the minute you’d go to touch him he would just back away with this look like “sucker. I don’t need you”. Yeah, the dog was a jerk.

Shadow didn’t have a Pilot back then. He would have been a better dog if he had. I get that now. Sometimes, I wonder what he could’ve been like if we had just known how to handle him. We all did the best we could with what we had, but still, we could have done better.

I wasn’t a Pilot from the beginning. Dogs were just fluffy creatures to me. I wanted to hug them, love them and I just thought they were all good dogs. I don’t know why though. Quite honestly, Shadow should have turned me off to most dogs. But, there was a connection I had with our four legged friends.

This is not something I would've put past our Shadow

This is not something I would’ve put past our Shadow

However, the older I got, the more confident I became around these dogs. I found, through trial and error, they responded to the way I communicated with them through my body language. I learned what worked and what didn’t. At the time, I didn’t realize I was being a Pilot. I was just doing what worked.

I’ve had time to improve my skills (notice I didn’t say perfect) and become a better Pilot every day and each session. You don’t have to be born with an instinctual gift for communicating with your dog. It’s not necessary. It’s absolutely fine if you look back on your past dogs and think “well, crap, I could’ve done a lot of things differently”. But, focus on the here and now. Focus on the dog that you do have, the dogs that you do visit, and think, how can I make myself a better Pilot each day?

Being a good Pilot isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something that you work towards.  Keep up the good work and good rewards will follow.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

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