Tuesday, August 28, 2012

He could have been a dog trainer ...

          Such wisdom from a Prime Minister

"Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught."

Many many dogs get drilled, and drilled, and drilled, into submission, obedience and out of any desire to learn. Yet dogs are always willing to learn even when the teaching method leaves a great deal to be desired. I was thinking about this the other day; even when dogs were shown their 'accidents', or worse shoved into them, and scolded they still figured out house training eventually. Positive training addresses this dichotomy in a broad context but many dogs, no matter how trained, likely have something they don't like being taught. It's our job to figure out how to take the willingness to learn and create a love of being taught too.

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

I know I've reflected on this before - I really believe the concept of failure is foreign to dogs so they stay enthusiastic as long as we do. Many trainers make failures so obvious to the dog they have no choice but to become disheartened. If failure is inevitable how can success be possible? While there may or may not be  "failures" in your world of training, and many trainers use NRM (no reward markers very effectively), one central concept of this quote - celebrating failure as a way to reach success is critical to grasp firmly.

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Not necessarily to change strategies mind you but just to check in. Assessment is such an important part of playing working with our dogs. Without checking progress and benchmarks the best laid training plan on the planet is weaker than it needs to be. Inherent in this quote is the concept of having a strategy of course. While I often appear to free wheel as I play work with the dogs I generally have some conception of what we will accomplish. I am full of admiration for those who have detailed training plans and keep such great notes about training. I aspire to this. I should print this quote out and stick it on my fridge!

"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."

One step, one building block or brick  at a time. There is no point in teaching a complex behaviour until the basics of attention and focus are in place.  Every skill is dependent on prior knowledge to make them work. Using shaping as much as I do even just the willingness to offer things is a brick of sorts.  Laying a foundation of excellence is critical to overall success. Rushing to the "sexy" stuff can backfire badly both for the dog and the trainer as it can be very disheartening when "chain of destiny" breaks, sometimes irreparably.

"To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day."

I plan, I think ahead and then something unexpected happens and I react ... not always with the thinking part of my brain. I have yet to strike one of the dogs but when I fear for their safety (or others safety - baby rabbits come to mind here) I have yelled and grabbed at them.  I hate that. Wyn bit me quite hard the other day and I pushed him away; he tumbled and came right  back for more but I didn't like my reaction.  I have met so many dogs that have little resilience for difficult things (Sam being one) that I about this aspect of training without the quotation, but it's a good reminder anyhow. Well laid bricks are hard to dislodge but easier to jostle out of position then they were to get in place.

"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."

This? This is the heart of playing with my dogs. There is no end to training - only a journey of great joy and discovery. For this I am truly grateful.