HOW YOU SEE TRAINING MATTERS
When you think about training your dog, what comes into mind? For many of us, it’s a list of things to check off. Can I suggest that while that’s useful because it helps us be goal-orientated but that’s also VERY UNHELPFUL. Why? Because it becomes GOAL centred and we should GROWTH centred.
What is GROWTH? Growth doesn’t necessarily only mean our dogs can exhibit a behaviour. Growth takes into the account that we are considering other factors like our dog’s age, it’s emotional maturity, it’s cognitive capability, and its capacity for learning. If our dog isn’t hungry to learn, there’s no point in making a lesson a lesson.
Being growth centred means we take a more wholistic approach to development. We measure the dog’s response instead of the result. We measure our response with our dogs as well. We look into our development as much as we care about our dog’s.
WHAT YOU MEASURE MATTERS
Fellow dog owners have asked if I ever get tired or nonchalant about training. My answer is NEVER. My secret is because I don’t measure my dog on the response. I measure my dog on her overall ability to handle life’s pressures and her ability to RECOVER from those stressors. E.g. Lady-Mae is sensitive to sounds and vibrations, to this day, you can see her get startled. I’m not measuring her on her response. What I look for is how she deals with it. Even though you can still see her body react, she brushes it off and goes about enjoying the environment. That’s GROWTH.
The feedback that we receive from our dogs is a CONVERSATION, not an indication of how great or bad you are as a handler. If your dog has its tail tucked, stop fussing. It is sharing with you that it’s afraid of something. When that happens, I usually look around to see possible triggers. If there’s none, I just ignore it and continue what we’re doing. This is how it will sound like if the dog could speak:
Dog : (Tail tucked) “I’m scared.”
Human: (Look around assess the situation, calmly continue the walk) “I know you’re scared but nothing her to be scared, I’ve got you.”
Stop measuring the response and start measuring the recovery time your dog takes to offer the desired behaviour. And, START having a non-verbal conversation rather than reacting to your dog.
KNOWING YOURSELF WELL MATTERS
Too many dog owners have very little self-awareness. By this I mean, you have got to know what motivates you and how to motivate yourself. For example, I enjoy partnering with people to work on a common goal. I enjoy being able to consider risks and find the best options in training. I enjoy things better when I have clarity and I enjoy spontaneity and variety.
If you read what I enjoy, you’ll quickly realise that I won’t make a very good dog trainer because dog training is about consistency (repetitions) and being predictable.
When I adopted Lady-Mae, I thought about what kind of a dog I would like her to be in the midst of people who did not like dogs. My motivation to raise her to be a balanced dog came out of “I want other people to enjoy my dog too.” It wasn’t because she could make my life easier but it was the benefit of my community.
The second way I keep myself motivated is always evaluating the risks and options I have during the training process. Sometimes, this can look like I’m always changing my mind. If I’m training for others, I make it a point to communicate my intentions and why I made a change in decision.
The most important thing for me is CLARITY. Without this, I’m often frustrated. So, when I adopted Lady-Mae, I was constantly reframing my goals until I had clarity of the kind of dog I wanted to raise. My WHY gives me emotional clarity and helps me to be focused on Lady-Mae’s growth rather and goals. It helps me to also not compare myself to other handlers and keeps me focused on what Lady-Mae’s strengths are.
Lastly, I don’t have a habit of training my dog for more than 5 mins at a time, because I enjoy variety, I work on a few things that are related in the developmental process. And in order to beat the bore of predictability and repetitions which drains me, I don’t have a fix schedule on when I train the dog. I also don’t have a fix goal that I need to check off each day. I keep it fluid within the week. Instead of having daily goals, I have a weekly one that I work towards. That helps me manage my weaknesses while leveraging on my strengths.
So the next time you’re struggling with your mojo, you may have to have clarity about your GROWTH plan. Or you may have to change what you’re measuring or you may have to take time to know yourself better because it could be what’s hindering you from helping your dog unleash its potential.