In dog training, trust is the key that opens the door to freedom. What makes this relevant is that this is also true for men and women today. All dogs today are descendants of the great wilderness predator, the wolf, who is born with a survival instinct to find, catch, and kill. The wolf is an amazing survivor; it has eyes to see prey at great distances, a nose to find its prey in the dark, the speed to catch prey in a flash, and the endurance to trail its prey to the end. The wolf’s genetic instinct to survive teaches it to never be seen or heard, to always be on alert, to always be aware of it’s surroundings, and to always be distrustful of the unknown – they simply do not trust anything they do not understand. Today, those natural instincts still exist in every newborn puppy. So, how did this dangerous predators become man’s best friend? What would cause this creature to go from hunting, catching, and killing to walking with his tail wagging by our sides, not only friendly, but even wishing to obey our commands? Having trained so many puppies, the answer is obvious to us trainers: it is trust. Obedience will only come when trust exists and trust does not exist with something you do not know. In this pursuit of trust, there is no substitute for time spent together. Never underestimate the need for a great relationship between you and your puppy. The same is true between you and your wife, or your child, or with teh good Lord above. Put simply, we cannot trust what we do not know. You may take a risk in trusting something you don’t know, but you cannot rest in peace with total assurance if you do not know for sure that what you are trusting is trustworthy. You can make a dog obey out of fear of consequences, but he is never at peace or content in his serving under these conditions. At some point or distance he will break away to serve himself because he does not know you well enough to know you have his best interest at heart. I know of no champions – none – that do not trust their master, and if we are honest, the trust is they have actually gone beyond mere trust to total faith in their master. It is in that moment when they stop just believing in their master and start to actually believe their master that they move beyond ordinary dogs .They have a willingness, even desire, to deny themselves and to follow their master. It is an amazing and exciting thing to experience.
So how do we put this trust into our naturally self-serving newborn puppy? In the beginning, we demonstrate our love for them with our actions. If they want something (food, shelter, treats, hugs, water, love), we provide it. Why? Because we want them to know who we are and that we love them. We also want them to understand the amazing power we have to both provide and take away. However (and this is where we so often fail with our children), once they know how much we love them, they must make a decision. They must decide to either continue expecting us to provide, entertain, and serve their needs, or to see us with different eyes and choose to obey and serve. Those that see the truth go from self-serving and demanding to being thankful for your love, and your personal sacrifice in their lives. It is like they are saying, “May I love you back? May I walk with you? May I show the world how much I love you for who you are? Test me. Put me through trials, run me great distances, ask me to stop and look always to you for direction. You are my greatest treasure. Let me learn, let me run, let me stop, let me go the distance not yet gone before. Send me through the briars and the waters cold. Let me show the world just how wonderful you are.”
Wow! Can you even imagine how much joy that brings my heart and how much love I can have for a creature that was first born with a deceitful, self-serving herat but that now has chosen to put me first in his life?
This is a great illustration of what Jesus Christ has done for God’s children. When He was on the cross with some of His last breaths, Christ said, “It is finished.” What was finished? He would not rise from the grave for another three days. At the most basic level, Christ was saying He had finished what the Father had sent him to do, namely redeem a people for Himself from their sins, and I believe He was also saying, “Father, I have demonstrated to them just how much you love them.” Now that is love and obedience. So, just as our puppies do, we now have to choose our master. Do we continue to serve ourselves or do we trust and obey his Word? One decision leads down the wide path of “just another dog,” while the other leads down a narrow path of wonderment, purpose, and peace. Once you know your Maker and Master, then, and only then, can you trust Him and serve Him in a way that gives Him all the glory! My question to you is not about your dog, but about yourself. How much time have you spent lately in the Word of God, your maker and your master? The name of one of my dogs is Prophet, but his registered AKC name is Joshua 24:15, “Choose you today, whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is the greatest decision a dog will ever make, and it is, also, the greatest decision you will ever make. Make it wisely.
Thanks for listening. Here is your training tip for building trust: How do you train a dog to go away from you in a direction where he saw nothing fall? He will only go if he trusts and believes in you. Start by making him sit. Then let him see you throw several bumpers to the same spot. Point to that spot and say, “back.” Let him retrieve each bumper. Now place your puppy where he cannot see you, and put the bumpers back into the very same spot. Bring him out to the same starting spot and without him ever seeing anything fall to that area, point to that spot and say, “back.” He should go there this time by habit even though this time he never saw anything fall. He trusted your word, and he was rewarded. If he is going well to that spot, start backing up and making a greater distance between the puppy and the bumpers and thus a greater trust in your word. Once he seems confident with that directional line to the spot, keep the bumpers in the same spot again and you and the dog move to the right or left so that the directional line is different. Now he trusts you from a different angle. The more successful he is in finding something that he didn’t see fall, the greater his trust in your words. Keep close enough to the bumpers to allow him to be successful in the beginning, and slowly make it more difficult. That is also why God tests your faith, and why things seem to get more difficult in life. God wants to know the same thing you want to know from your dog: just how much do you love me, and just how much trust do you really have in me? Must you know it is there or will you go on His Word? Think about it. The greater the difficulty of the challenge for you, the greater the glory for the Master.
Staying in the shadow of the cross,
Hank and THE DOGS