There are times when trainers let what they perceive as their limitations affect everything they can accomplish in their dog training. Much of the time challenges are not insurmountable; they are mentally blown out of proportion making skills seem much more difficult to achieve than they actually are.
This line of thought keeps trainers from venturing out of their comfort zones, and limits their capabilities. The real crime is that this thought process is often subconscious. They persuade themselves to quit before taking a shot at a challenge, be it small or large. The great news is that we are all capable of so much more! So read on and let’s fix this sh*t!
As an agility trainer I am always pushing my students to go beyond training basic behaviors. I want them to reach for the stars, train to extremes. Create greatness rather than mediocrity.
Maybe you are thinking I’m: “Pushy”, “Demanding” or “Too aggressive”. But hopefully you actually see me as a super caring, detail-oriented coach who just wants the best for my students. Hopefully, it’s the latter 😉 .
I truly believe that the main limitations most people have in creating great behaviors can be summed up as:
- Lack of understanding on how to achieve higher level skills
- Lack of desire Or the biggy (which is the main point of my blog),
- Lack of belief in your ability or capability as a trainer and/or
I realize that fear is an awfully strong word. But I believe it is often at the core of why so many trainers never progress their dog’s behaviors beyond a competent level when they, both the dog and the trainer, are truly capable of so much more.
One cause of the fear may simply be that they don’t believe they have it in themselves to work through the training issues. But often, the larger fear, the subconscious fear, is that they are scared to let their dogs fail. When encountering a challenge, they simply don’t push the envelope because the fear of having their dog experience failure is often linked to the fear of having their dog quit working. And that, for many, is completely a deal breaker. But that kind of thinking will always get them stuck at a certain skill level and they will never reach their potential. Well, that just sucks!
Let’s first address the fear that we simply aren’t capable of working through the training challenge. Maybe we feel we aren’t fun enough, aren’t fast enough physically, aren’t capable of thinking or reacting quickly enough, don’t have the energy or the ability to multitask…… and on and on. There are a million things we can come up with to sabotage ourselves.
The other day I was lecturing to my students about techniques to create stronger behaviors and more drive when one leaned back comfortably in her chair, hands behind her head, stared at me and stated: “We really struggle with being energetic and fun. We just don’t have the energy to be dynamic like you. For you it’s easy and natural, but it’s hard for us.”
Being the incredibly empathetic soul that I am, I promptly came back with, “Well, WAAAAAAA. Poor you! That’s so sad!” (OK, I didn’t say the “Poor you, that’s so sad“ part, but I was thinking it ) 🙂 .
I then went on quietly: “Are you freaking kidding me!? This doesn’t come naturally to me. When I am not teaching or training my dogs, I am a low energy, not fun, introvert.” I could go on, but that is descriptive enough. Needless to say being dynamic, up and fun is NOT my natural state.
Then I went on to explain, and this is the important part, I may be low energy, and I may not be an inherently bouncy, fun gal, but my goals are far more important to me than what I perceive are my personal limitations.
In other words for the few minutes/seconds that I am out there training my dog, I GET OVER MYSELF and become the person I need to be in order to accomplish my goals.
Ultimately MY GOALS are more important to me than is my need to stay in my comfort zone. MY GOALS are more important than my need to cosset myself into thinking that I am not capable of becoming or doing more because it IS uncomfortable and not my usual state of being.
This is the heart of the matter. When something is important to you, it is up to you and only you to believe that you are capable of more. If you convince yourself that you are not capable of more, then as Henry Ford once said “If you always do what you have always done then you will always get what you have always got”.
No one says you have to jump right into the deep end of the pool and go whole hog. As Lao Tzu famously stated, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This is sooooo true. You don’t need to change everything you do, or reverse every perception you have ever had of your capabilities in one moment. Begin with baby steps if you need to, but realize that it is within your control to BE MORE.
So to sum up, take a hard look at your training, and your life for that matter, and see if your lack of belief in your capabilities has been holding you back. If so, GET OVER IT!!!. Take some positive steps to BE MORE!! No time like the present to start a new day with a new perspective. Baby steps, baby. You can do it!!
Finding deeper depths to your personal strength will accomplish more than just enriching your training experiences; it will be personally empowering. Discovering that you have the capability to go beyond who you perceived yourself to be is incredibly powerful.
This is why, even when I struggle with my own dog training, I always embrace the journey, with all its ups and downs, happiness, anger and upset. Big lows and big highs. I will personally learn and grow from the experiences. Not that it is always easy, but I deeply understand that those journeys have helped to form who I am as a trainer. Putting those ups and downs into a healthy mental place turns the negatives into a positive, helps me to achieve more, and keeps me engaged and enjoying.
If fear of failure is preventing you from attempting to train your dog to a higher level, a bit of knowledge can fix that sucker. But that is another blog 🙂 . Maybe my next one. 🙂 Or you can reach me through my online training website: www.avx019.wpengine.com.
But as a little teaser, failure can teach your dog the difference between what is a rewardable behavior and what is not a rewardable behavior, so do not fear it. If you aren’t bringing your behaviors to failure you are probably not progressing your behaviors enough. And guess what……if you keep your training fun and you keep your dog engaged by being fun and dynamic, you won’t lose your dog to distractions and they won’t quit on you!