My Good Shepherd, My Good Trainer. John 10:11

I recently adopted a dog from the pound and I am completely in love with her and the changes she has brought into our home. Since adopting her, my mindset of having pets and, more importantly, being responsible for them, has completely changed. I learned about prey drive, details and needs of specific breeds, how dogs develop bad behaviors and essentials of training and disciplining a dog in the appropriate manner.

The more I learned, the more I realized that there is so much freedom that comes from discipline. I am not a professional trainer (though I admit, now I contemplate becoming one). I share what I learned from online videos, blogs, and training websites. It turns out that normally the dogs who are not trained are the ones who end up stuck in the house all day, forgotten in the backyard, or in the pound. Some owners find it hard to discipline and train their dogs because they think they are being mean by giving discipline, boundaries and rules. What they don't realize is that they are doing more harm by not training their dog or by letting them do whatever they want.

Much of my life has been lived from the perspective of being the student. I expected leniency from God because I'm learning. Now, my dog has changed that perspective as I am the one leading and teaching her. I see how discipline and structure give freedom and leniency and coddling can undermine success and growth. As I have been learning through being a dog trainer I am seeing things through a new lens and this is helping me see my Good Shepherd as my Good Trainer. Here are some ways to relate to God as your good trainer and to appreciate the discipline that is leading you toward freedom.

My Good Trainer knows me personally

Dogs used to be mainly for work. Specific breeds had specific qualities that were used for various work. Many times, bad behaviour comes from a dog not getting the appropriate amount of exercise or mental stimulation for their breed. It's better to train a dog and work with their genetics than against it. For example if a dog was meant to burrow for animals while hunting then training them to not dig up your yard will be difficult because you're working against what it was meant to do. God knows you because he created you. He knows what comes easily and what may take extra time and hard work. He knows how to get you from point A to point B in a personal, effective way. He knows your personal learning style and is patient in leading and teaching you. He can guide you in cultivating and fine-tuning your gifts.

My Good Trainer is in control so that I don't have to worry and look out for myself.

Some dogs are aggressive towards other dogs because they feel the need to keep the other dog in check. It's like a “do unto others before they do unto you” mentality. If they know that the owner has the situation under control then they will not need to take control. The dog knows, if someone messes with me my owner will take care of it. If I mess with someone, my owner will take care of it.

God has overcome the world. He sees our struggles and he sees when we cause others to stumble. He will discipline you when you need it and he will look after you and take care of you when you need it.

My Good Trainer takes responsibility for my past and brings healing and freedom from the consequences.

It's great when you can take your dog off a leash and let them run around the park or the beach. A good owner will not let the dog off the leash if it doesn't come back when it's called, attacks other people, attacks other dogs, doesn't know not to run into the street, and in general just isn't trained to live peacefully and safely in society. A great dog owner will discipline and train their dog so that they can live peacefully off the leash and not be a danger to others or to itself. God wants to take you from being the cowering dog in the corner or the aggressive dog in the pound labeled unfit for adoption to being the happy, healthy, well-rounded dog that gets to fulfill its nature.

My Good Trainer brings freedom from fear.

Petting and giving attention are used as rewards for dogs. When you do it, the dog realizes it is doing something well. If the dog gets scared and a person uses petting and attention as a way to calm the dog, then the dog thinks it is being rewarded for being scared. It will use being scared as a way to get attention. Overall rewarding negative behaviours will lead to a dog with behavioral problems. Fear, anger, and frustration are not good moods for your dog to live in. They are not good moods for you to live in either.

How many times in the bible does God say “fear not”. It even says that God did not give us a spirit of fear. I'm not encouraging you to be foolhardy. You need to use wisdom, but remember the Lord is in control. If you feel abandoned in your fears and struggles, just know that he is aware of the situation and sees you. When the timing is right he will step in. Maybe this is a time where you are perfectly capable of handling things but you won't know it if he steps in too soon.

My Good Trainer frees me from having to follow everyone's guidelines and standards.

If you belong to God then His rules are the ones you need to live by. His wishes are your guiding point. Guard yourself from what other people may be trying to put into your life.

God is training you to reach his standards and follow his rules in the pack. You and God are going to run through obediences courses and win awards. You won’t know what to do if you aren’t learning his ways. I’m not teaching my dog to run to everyone who calls her name, but she needs to come when I call.

My Good Trainer is patient with me and treats me well.

It takes patience to train a dog. You have to learn to read their body language and discern if they understand what you are trying to teach. Many times it seems that they are being blatantly disobedient and rebellious but in reality, they simply do not understand what you want from them. Trying to train a dog while you are angry and frustrated with them will get you nowhere.

God has mercy over us no matter where we are in our relationship with Him. He knows when we don't understand and when we are purposefully going against Him. He has new mercies in dealing with us every day. He is always patient and will finish His work in you.

My Good Trainer frees me from shame and condemnation.

The dog trainers said I couldn't get mad at Sonya for going potty in the house when I'm training her to go outside. They gave good reasons: puppies can't hold it for long, they can't let themselves out, she doesn't know that there's places I don't want her to go potty on or in...etc. If I were to get mad at her and punish her, then she would be afraid to potty in front of me and just do it in secret but still in the house.

Sometimes we hide aspects of our lives from God and other people. At least we think we hide them but he knows them. When God points something out that he wants to free you from or teach you about, its not to make fun of you or criticize you for needing to take this step. When he points something out, its so you can overcome it.

My Good Trainer is not overwhelming.

It's not beneficial for you to let a new dog have the run of the house. If you let the dog run all over the house there will most likely be destruction. A smaller space is easy to control. Similarly, God will put you in charge of smaller things (yourself, your finances, etc...) and then when he sees you are disciplined and efficient with these, He can move you on to other blessings, revelations, and plans he has for you. If you can be trusted with little you can be trusted with much.

The Good Trainer is the Best Trainer.

A dog is a reflection of its trainer. Sonya can't be a good dog if I don't teach her how to be a good dog. In training her I am imparting to her some of my nature and preferences. I'm teaching her how to be a good dog for me.I changed my lifestyle to accommodate her and I am teaching her to accommodate me.

I also help her to fulfill what I expect from her. I wake up extra early so that I can take her for a 30-60 minute walk before I go to work. In return, she goes potty outside (yes I pick up after her) and she doesn't tear up the house because we burned off some energy. Bottom line is she needs me to do my best so that she can be her best. Cue the Pokemon theme song.