Excerpt from “Training a Dog to Train Me”

Written by: Jonathon Gordon, U.S. Marine working for the Warrior Canine Connection in Washington, D.C.

In today’s world everybody focuses on the negatives. Whether it is the media following all the negative news; people noticing the faults in everyone else; and in parenting, where wrong behavior doesn’t go unpunished and right behavior is seldom rewarded. Having a 5 year old daughter, I fell right into the trend. Little time was spent praising her for the things she did right, while most of my energy was focused on the negative things she did.

Far left: Rick Yount (Warrior Canine Connection Founder) with Freedom, Gil McMillan (Air Compassion for Veterans), Nancy Christopherson (Executive Director for Tee it up for the Troops), Rose and Dan Schadegg (TIUFTT sponsors) and Jonathan Gordon (kneeling) with Birdie. Picture taken at the Warrior Canine Connection program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, Washington, D.C

Fortunately, I was privileged with an internship, training future service dogs. Training a dog requires patience I never realized I could have. And while I was training the dogs, they were also training me, unknowingly at first, how to be a better parent. With training a dog, simple tasks are easy. Sit; down; stay; come; they are all very basic, while more advanced tasks such as opening a door or turning on or off a light are very time consuming and stressful on both dog and trainer.

Shaping the behavior of a dog as well as a child requires a constant presence, almost as if you had eyes in the back of your head, as well as consistent positive and negative reinforcement. Focusing on just the bad things pushes the bond needed away and reinforces negative behavior. Focusing on just the positives they tend to push boundaries, create their own limits and their own agendas while you are taken advantage of.

The dogs, as well as children can sense when they are in charge of a situation.  You can’t make it personal, but at the same time you can’t lose. Again being patient and calm, making your commands firm, known, but again being unemotional is the key, and at times very difficult.  Always ending on a positive note is key for the dog to learn and be enthusiastic about trying about the following day or next time the switch is presented.

The same idea applies to children. Each child is different and has their own motivation and agenda they work off of, so each child ultimately requires different techniques to get the appropriate response from. But with that, the same basic concepts apply. Finding something rewarding for them, and being a constant presence with the rewards as well as firm and fair with the punishments.

As I said before, in the beginning my parenting techniques were not very well established. My patience was low, and I rarely rewarded her for doing something right, but harped on her for what she would do wrong.  A lot of it is a learned trait picked up from how I was parented, and though I have no problems with how I was raised, I believe there are always ways for things to be done better. I know the reactions I received as a child caused me to rebel a lot more than most kids, and I feared the same out of my daughter.  Working with the dogs has slowly but surely molded my behavior into a more efficient way of parenting. Having the patience to work through difficult learning experiences and understanding how far a dog can be pushed can also be applied to my parenting techniques with my daughter.

Working with the service dogs has given me a common connection for teaching my daughter, and the dogs have trained me just as much if not more than I have trained them. There is still a lot of work and progress to be made for me, but the foundation is there, and continues to grow. It has come with mixed reviews, as I still don’t have it all right, but has brought out a new person in myself as well as my daughter. She has her set boundaries, knows what is expected of her, and loves the new found rewards she gets for doing it right.

TIUFTT National Event Sponsor Gives Back

This past weekend a group of volunteers from TDS, a national TIUFTT event sponsor, and Tee it up for the Troops went shopping for items for care packages.  They put together special Ziploc baggies for soldiers plus and additional box or two for each location that contained an assortment of goodies such as games, magazines, DVDs, personal care items, toys and small gifts for the local children, as well as other surprise holiday items.

Another group of volunteers baked 3,500+ cookies.  The cookies are being sent to three different units in Afghanistan (total of 135 soldiers) along with the care packages.  There will also be a large batch of cookies delivered to the MAC-V house at the VA hospital in Minneapolis.

TDS chose to do this as way to show their support, care and concern for each member of the troops.  The message that TDS wishes to convey to each soldier is, “God bless all of you! Hope this makes the holidays a little brighter!  You are not forgotten!”

To learn more about TDS you can visit their website at www.tdstelecom.com.

TIUFTT Creates Connections and Builds Community

Last week I had the pleasure and honor to attend the Opening Ceremony for the 7th Annual Tee it up for the Troops National Day of Golf.  As in past years, I was deeply moved by the patriotic display of remembrance and respect for the service of our military men and women.  As I took time to mingle with those in attendance I asked myself how many people have taken time out of their busy schedule to attend an event like this and visit with someone who has served in the military?

WWII Veterans during the Opening Ceremony at the 7th Annual Tee it up for the Troops National Day of Golf

This event provides an opportunity to do just that.  It is an event that honors the service of all military personnel across all branches and conflicts that our military has been involved in.  One of the most memorable moments for me was to see two rows of WWII veterans with front row seats to the Opening Ceremony.  Afterwards, I took the time to thank some of these veterans for their service and in exchange I heard a first hand account of one veteran’s experiences during the Invasion of Normandy.  He was even planning a trip to Normandy next June to take the ashes of a fellow soldier to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. I realized after talking with this WWII veteran that his story being told in his own words had more of an impact on me than any history class or book could have demonstrated.

Two of the golfers at the 7th Annual Tee it up for the Troops National Day of Golf share a moment of success on the golf course.

During the ceremony I noted that many of the veterans had been given yellow ribbons to wear, which helped me identify those who had answered the call to duty.  The impact behind the significance of the ribbons was made evident as I watched several veterans interact with each other.  I saw many of the veterans reach out to each other in greeting as one another passed by.  They would share a brief bit of their military experience with the other and all the while they would have a smile on their face or a tear in their eye as they continued to hold onto the arm or the shoulder of the individual they were talking to.  It was reminiscent of long lost brothers being reunited after spending years apart.

Wreath Laying Ceremony by Gold Star Families during the 7th Annual Tee it up for the Troops National Day of Golf.

As the ceremony drew to a close and I looked across the crowd of people gathered there, I realized how many more stories I had yet to hear.  Besides the veterans I had already met, there were also Gold Star Families (families that have lost a loved one in military service), Wounded Warriors (severely wounded or injured soldiers), Tribute to the Troops members (organization dedicated to honoring our fallen heroes) and many others who had all united that day to honor, respect and remember the sacrifices of all veterans and their families.  Thank you to Tee it up for the Troops for hosting events like this and providing me the opportunity to connect with those who have served to protect this great nation.  I have a greater sense of connection and community with our “protectors of the turf” and their families, and I am grateful.

Tribute to the Troops members pictured with a Wounded Warrior during the 7th Annual Tee it up for the Troops National Day of Golf.