Success, Frustration & Don't Stop Believin'
I've been at training dogs for awhile now. I'm a firm believer that us trainers should not be self-contained in a bubble. I believe in continuing education. And I believe if there's an issue with a standard protocol it should be evaluated, reassessed and viewed through behavior analysis goggles, and hopefully improved on. That's the scientific method, right?
I teach pet manners. At this point in my career I've taught over 1000 hours of classes. I know now what I didn't know in the beginning. Nowadays I could pretty much tattoo it on my forehead, or get knuckle tattoos (if I had enough knuckles) Set yourself and your dog up for success. I sometimes have students chant it with me, to drill it hard "SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS!" I don't mean to be obnoxious about it (OK, yeah I do) but frustration begets frustration. I discuss in many ways how my students can control the antecedents (environment) and the consequences.
It's my job to make my students successful with their dogs. You know what doesn't feel like success? Frustration. Frustrated dogs, Frustrated people, and incompatible behaviors that don't alleviate some of the function of the (perhaps inappropriate) behavior. That's a whole 'nother topic to unpack... I digress.
I'm so over frustrated dogs and frustrated people. It doesn't have to be that way. If I can teach my students in a way that minimizes frustration so that they're more successful we all win. How do we do that? Taking a look at the function behind these frustration behaviors. Increasing our rate of reinforcement, our timing and having clear criteria that are set up so that we have a trend of behavioral successes to shape into more success points. So if you're with a trainer and you're frustrated, tell them! please! I want my clients to communicate with me so that we can troubleshoot sessions. Just because we planned it to go one way, and it didn't doesn't mean that was the only way to go. Frustration doesn't feel good, not for you, not for the dog. You're not going to be enjoying your dog with a bag of 'UGH' at the end of the leash. But don't stop believing that you can have success just because you're in an "UGH" rut now. Pause, breathe deep and revisit it from a new perspective. This time think about what is the smallest success point might be.
After all, dogs that are standing with four feet on the ground are not jumping dogs.