The first two years we came to Cayucos (on an annual training adventure I lead for advanced clients), his favorite thing to do was chase birds. He'd run and run and run, and it was quite beautiful to watch. While I sometimes joked he was running north to Cambria or south to Morro Bay, I knew he knew where his bread was buttered, and would eventually turn around and come back.
This morning marks our fifth trip to this glorious stretch of Central California coast. (It's not been five years, but we've successfully snuck up here on our own a couple of times.) Today, he was much more interested in interacting with me than chasing the birds - hands down. On the couple of occasions where he did chase birds, it was a half-hearted attempt of maybe 30'. Part of me misses watching him majestically race along the surf, but most of me is thrilled to learn I have become the more exciting source of fun. It shows me how our relationship has grown throughout our two years together.
New training students sometimes seem to scoff at the idea of wanting a relationship with their dogs. When most people come to a training class, it's because they want behaviors they consider to be problematic to STOP, preferably yesterday! I empathize, but am always trying to teach them to appreciate how building a relationship will support their training goals. When you develop a meaningful relationship with your dog, he learns to *care* about what you have to offer and he values shared interactions. No dog ever works to "please his master, just because." No. Dogs do things to please themselves - but when you play your cards right, and develop a relationship, your dog learns to find *you* pleasing, and will more actively cooperate with your chosen game plan.