After pug and I formalized our relationship as pup and trainer we each returned to our homes in different states. The challenge for the trainer became: is there anything I can do to continue the process with 400 miles between us? With an awareness that our sessions would be few and far between how could I ensure that the short times we would have together in physical presence would be productive. There was so much more I needed to learn about my pup.
In my own path of leather, early on before I had any real awareness of the BDSM lifestyle, I served in what would be considered a "traditional" apprenticeship. I had a mentor that presented me with an outline of 25 sections that listed simple questions or areas of BDSM that I was to research and report back to him on. It resulted in a series of essays that explored everything that one might encounter within the leather community, including basic definitions of Bondage, Discipline Dominance and submission. It touched on emotional mindsets, forms of SM and the history of leather among other things. It was a period of time where I defined what I knew at the time and it was an extremely rewarding experience.
Pug, as many of you may know is a very literate pup. I imagine her sometimes to be like Snoopy at the typewriter plucking away, "It was a dark and stormy night...". Pug's human side loves to express herself with written words and she does so intelligently and with a flair for honesty and a search for her truth. I knew what I had to do. I wanted the human pug to assimilate her thoughts and feelings about pugs, pup play, her expectations and beliefs about training in general. I prepared an outline, similar to the format that I had been 'trained' with. It itemized every possible aspect of pup play that I could think of.
I presented the outline to pug through e-mail and thus we began the process of what I like to refer to now as P.P.C.C. (Pup Play Community College). I would submit sections to her, she would respond, I would seek clarification or comment and together we assimilated our thoughts and feelings about the practice of pup play as we believed it to be. Over four weeks, it evolved into a written dialogue or journal of sorts that established our limits and boundaries and gave us an opportunity to assemble philosophies, concepts and theories of pup training. It was a learning experience for both of us. The universe was our professor.
The writing assignment outline is presented, in generic form, on pug's website. It is our hope that the simple tool we created together can be used by others considering a pup and trainer relationship. It was a great place to start for us. Feel free to make it your own if the idea appeals to you as pup or trainer. For us, this outline will continue to be the foundation for ongoing dialogues as we continue to uncover nuances of our relationship. As new practices, emotions, or training options emerge, we will continue to add these areas into the body of work. We discussed whether or not the resulting responses and dialogue would have any value for pup enthusiasts and decided to share it as well, on pug's website, for your consideration and humbly offer it as just another "story" of puppy play. Our beliefs, theories and practices may not be yours, but we felt that if anyone was considering the process of training through written words, may find it to be a great jumping off point. Enjoy.
For me, as pug would respond to the areas of the outline, I found that she had an extremely coherent understanding of pup play both in general and for herself. As she would define and discuss each area of pup play she was, in essence, educating me to her beliefs and theories and offering me insight to develop my own theories of training around her. I was not entering into the relationship with any former concrete knowledge or experience to color how I would train a pup. This openness to the individual uniqueness of your pup is a crucial element to success I feel.
The most notable exchange for me was our discussion on 'human consciousness' vs. 'pup consciousness' and the cognitive abilities of a "human pup" while in pup mode. Pup space is apparently this fuzzy zone of reality when the voice of humans becomes the "wah whom wah" of the adults in a peanuts cartoon. Seems like a challenge to a trainer of human pups to convey human words or commands if the pup is in "Wha Wha" land of cognition. Although there was discussion about 'real dogs' and their cognitive abilities, no matter how you look at it, regardless of how deep you go into pup space, we are not four legged dogs and we cannot separate ourselves completely from the fact that pups are human and will retain human cognition albeit from an altered state of reality.
I know this state of "wha wha" in pup space is the sacred zone: it's the state of surrender and bliss that pups crave. To me as a trainer it is an honor to assist a pup to that space and allow them the freedom to "be" there. There was lots of talk between us about "when in pup mode" vs. "when in human mode" and I formed my belief that the human cognitive abilities in pup play are always present and the pup has a choice as to what they hear and don't hear. (*Laughs for a moment as I realize; isn't that the case for all of us?) The challenge would be to encourage this retention and bring about a new level of pup space that was based in obedience and routine rather than total randomness and play. How would I change the pattern of play and encourage obedience without breaking the spirit of the pup?