Patience Grasshopper

Learning something new is never a straight-line progression. Let’s repeat together: learning something new is never a straight-line progression. There are dips that come from lack of understanding, lack of time spent, and lack of motivation.

We all want the end result of a perfect beach body, but are we willing to do what we have to get it? If the motivation is there to do the work, it will come. Maybe you will fall off the wagon a few (or many) times… have lulls in your motivation to exercise, or enjoy the taste of pizza a little too much (guilty). But if you work at it, the benefits of a healthier lifestyle will emerge. Maybe not in the form of a rail-thin model, but feeling better and having more energy is its own reward.

It took me at least 10 attempts to quit smoking until I actually stopped for good. The habit was 15 years hard and… I enjoyed it. But for my own health, I needed to stop. I have been 18 years smoke-free. I don’t even think about smoking anymore. Like most people who successfully quit, the idea of it is now completely foreign and gross. The idea of staying off social media, however, gives me a slight panic attack. “Fear of missing out” wastes so much time, but that knowledge won’t stop me from picking up my phone and checking the newsfeed. It’s like quitting smoking all over again, and I am not alone.

  • As flawed as humans are, why is there so much pressure on our dogs to learn new skills or change a behavior in a short period of time?
  • Why do we think that taking a 6-week class with an hour or two of practice between lessons will make monumental changes in a dog if we aren’t setting the dog up for success in every area of its life? Like using a crate, a leash, or the proper rate of reinforcement?
  • Why do we think that a board and train will cure everything if the dog is going home to no changes in human behavior or environment?
  • Why do dogs fall off the wagon if they “know” how to do something but choose not to?

Dog training fails because it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Teaching complex behaviors or modifying behavior takes time, skill building and the patience to work through all the dips and valleys. Dog training (like all learning) is NEVER a straight-line progression.

Visualize the picture of behavior you want and then evaluate the environment and your teaching skills. Learn how you can set the best stage for success. If you are struggling, then call a pro to help you. If you are committing to a training class or program, then commit to the homework and lifestyle change that goes with it. If you want to teach your dog to come when called, but you are letting him off the leash 50% of the time and your dog finds the air, trees and other dogs are more interesting than you, then you are setting the dog up to fail. Dogs are pretty darn good at being the honest, wild creatures they are born to be and won’t self-loathe after rolling in poop or chasing a squirrel.

Our job is training dogs and teaching people. Which you think is harder? We love what we do: being educators and advocates for the animals we chose to spend our life with. We continue to learn all the time, and no, we aren’t perfect. No dog trainer is perfect. The flawed human side is always there. And dogs love us despite it.

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