I’ve always been someone that wanted to see results right away. It’s sometimes hard for me to be patient and see the big picture. In my experiences, we all have a tendency to forget the accomplishments we’ve made even before reaching the end goal.
When I got my certification to become a dog trainer, it taught me so much about patience, perseverance and to appreciate the small victories that I achieved rather than focusing on the end goal. With each dog that I worked with, it was an amazing feeling to be able to recognize how much progress they made and it reminded me that I myself progressed as a trainer.
With that in mind, allow me to share some of the most valuable lessons that these experiences have taught me:
1. Stay Motivated
The dog I trained during my certification was one of the most difficult dogs that I have worked with because she was a challenge to motivate. Getting her to the level of obedience that I needed to pass the program was no easy task.
When we were working on sit-stays we managed to get her time to at least one minute. Even if I left the room I knew she wouldn’t move. However, even though we had practiced several times I noticed she was beginning to fall back on old habits.
I felt like I was failing because she wasn’t performing to the level that we had worked so hard to achieve. At that moment, I realized that I had to be patient and understand that results can happen if I allow them to.
I went back to basics and focused on building her up to the level we both needed to be. Training was also kept unpredictable so that she had to guess how long she had to stay. I also changed up her reward. At times, she would get nothing while other times she would get her coveted ball or a yummy treat. My reward for keeping her motivated was the satisfaction I felt of her success plus a yummy treat for myself.
It may not be perfect or happen right away but you have to remember that progress is a slow burn and it WILL pay off in the long run.
2. Push Past Boundaries
By the end of my program, we were still far from perfect but I celebrated all the little things that she and I accomplished. During heeling practice, I found ways to celebrate little accomplishments. If she was beside me for 2 steps I celebrated with her as I slowly built up the length of the heel practice.
During sessions, I focused on our progress each day instead of trying to compare our failures. Yes, there were still moments of frustration but I used this emotion to motivate myself and see if we could do better.
On days when she was super slow, I encouraged her to add a few steps instead of staying where I was able to get her the day before. In that sense, there was always a successful training session.
This feeling is what helped me become a better trainer because it took me out of my comfort zone and I tried new things with her. Having this difficult experience helped me see that small victories are essential for pushing towards improvement. The feeling of accomplishing your goals and exceeding them is just the cherry on top.
3. Recite and Reflect
I try to make sure to look back to where I started with that particular dog as this reminds me that I need to appreciate any and all progress.
Each time I train a dog now, I consider the level of knowledge the dog had when we first started and remind myself to take it slow and celebrate all of the steps that we take together.
Since then, I have worked with so many dogs that have benefited from my frustrations and joys including my own dog who has gone on to win titles in Rally Obedience.
P.S She was also a hard dog to motivate at times
In terms of your own progress, take the time to ask yourself. What would I like to achieve? Where would I like to be?
You’ll be able to take small steps instead of giant leaps so that you don’t discourage yourself. It’s always better to take a smaller chunk to work on rather than everything all at once. It has helped me so much in every aspect of my life, especially in my career.
About the Author
Sam Cassidy is an Office Assistant and Student Services staff member at Brighton College. In her free time, she loves dog training and going out for hikes with friends!
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