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How you sabotage your dog training efforts even before you begin

“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go”

Lao Tzu

When undertaking a new endeavor, job, or task, we almost always bring with us some preconceived idea of how the finished product is “supposed” to look. We habitually do this without realizing. Back in the deep recesses of our mind where doubts and insecurities lurk we gather the notion that our attempts must go a certain way, follow a clear linear path, in order to be deemed successful.

How many times have you prevented yourself from attempting something because you felt you couldn’t live up to the image you created in your mind? I know I’ve done it a few times.

We fool ourselves into believing that this imagined, ideal vision of the right outcome is so far removed from what we can actually accomplish that we don’t even try. As if the there was only one way to achieve our goal. Rarely in life is that true. We’re told repeatedly that perfection is an unattainable thing and that the pursuit of perfection is unrealistic yet in our own way we try to circumvent this advice and go after it anyway.

How does this affect your dog training?

I see clients get quickly frustrated and even give up on their training because the dog isn’t doing it right or going about it in the way they pictured it would. Their preconceived vision isn’t aligning with reality. This vision, often unnecessarily brought on by something they saw someone do on TV, gets so deeply ingrained into their minds that they feel not achieving it is just an indication of their own ineptitude, or worse, their dogs lack of intelligence.

Let’s remember that your end result is just that, an end results. Something you work towards and not something that will come automatically, either to yourself or your dog. Some expect that their dog should respond to them in a certain manner or that their training efforts should deliver immediate results. Holding out for a specific result and getting frustrated when you can’t achieve it helps no one and sets you and your dog up for future failure. When guiding your dog towards a particular action be aware that along the way you may get behavior that may appear off the mark. This is normal. Its part of the learning process. Your dog may not understand what you’re asking of him because you may not know how to make him understand. You both require some fine tuning.

Don’t give up on your training because you think it “should” look a certain way, or because your dog is “supposed” to do it differently.

Don’t give up on your dog because you think he’s not smart enough, or too easily distracted, or not motivated enough.

Don’t give up on yourself because you feel you’re simply “not getting it”, or you think you’re a bad trainer.

There is a good deal to know about training a dog properly. Understanding how they learn, think, and behave gives an experienced trainer a considerable advantage over the typical dog owner. Still, if you’re looking to give your dog some basic manners and little else, it can be done by you. Have patience and open your mind up to the learning process.

As you progress forward, no matter how slowly, adjust your efforts and inch closer to your goal. Your dog will learn and will respond to your efforts.

Your dog will learn as much from you as you will from him or her. The true master learns from the pupil.

Let go of preconceived notion and ideas of perfection.

So what are your thoughts on this?

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Thanks for the boost Armando. I hit that spot months ago. I knew the puppy was challenged. We worked so hard for 8 months and it all fell apart. I know about adolescence and reactivity still I got frustrated.

    Your kind words ring true. I was embarrassed to “start over”. As a perfectionist it is a hard pill to swallow. The light shone when I realized It is not failure to sign up for more training. The partnership is a building block process. My dog and I await maturity and signed up for more training. Congratulations on the blog.

    1. We’ve all been down that road Sarah. I feel that the key is to look at any endeavor that requires learning as a process and not a one shot deal. We’re teachers to our dogs and that’s a life time commitment. Enjoy the journey and thanks for your support.

  2. Great points Armando. As Thomas Edison said:“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”

    Every dog is different, what worked with one of our dogs didn’t work with another, and our new puppy has his own agenda and way of learning.

    Keep at it and have fun in the process. After all you are spending quality time with your fuzzy buddy, how bad could it be?

    1. True Gerry. If you want your dog to have good habits and manner you really need to put in the time. There’s no way around it. Thanks!

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