Friday, April 19, 2019

Truths about successful trainers

I originally titled this “Truths about OTCh. trainers.” Then I changed it to “Truths about top trainers.” I finally settled on “Truths about successful trainers” because this post applies to any trainer who achieves the goals they set for themselves and their dogs. In a sport where anyone can participate with any breed, on any level, that's what defines success, not necessarily by becoming one of the obedience elite whose dogs turn in impeccable performances weekend after weekend. Although, hey, they're reaching their goals, too, so it applies across the board.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a number of extremely successful trainers and a few truths repeatedly rise to the top. I’d like to say I've mastered all of these, all of the time, but that would be stretching the truth. I’m happy to think I manage most of them most of the time. Still working on it.

In no particular order:

Successful trainers see how small details impact their team’s overall performance. They know little issues in training will become great big ones in the ring.

A small detail

They enjoy problem solving or are at least willing to tackle it with patience and determination. You know that saying about the journey and the destination? Yeah. That. You'd better enjoy the first one or you'll never get to the last one.

They have realistic expectations. There’s no such thing as an easy OTCh. Or an easy CD. Some trainers make it look like the dog came out of the womb in heel position but trust me, when you title a dog, you’ve shed the blood, sweat and tears to earn it, no matter the level.

They don’t make excuses. For every bizarre “WTF was that?” moment I’ve had in the ring, there’s a ready-made excuse at hand. And then there’s the real reason we failed – because I neglected a key element of training. (Or sometimes, it's your turn to fail that day. You can’t proof for everything and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying so just stop it. The world doesn’t need any more crazy dog trainers than it's already got.)

Time to train!
 They make sacrifices. They get up early to train before work. They drive a distance to train with a friend, instructor or group. They train in un-air conditioned buildings in the summer and in barely heated buildings in the winter. They train when they don’t feel like training. They train whether it’s convenient or not. If no one will train with them, they train by themselves.

They know how to stay the course. I’ve seen dogs who were an absolute mess a year ago shining in the ring now because their trainer didn’t give up.

They own their mistakes. In the end, the only person responsible for your dog’s ability to perform at the level you desire is you.

The detail got bigger
They don’t let others’ opinions influence them. For every single one of my dogs, an Important Person Who Should Have Kept Their Mouth Shut has found the need to share a less-than-complimentary opinion. Many years ago, one high ranking trainer and seminar presenter thought it necessary to tell me my soon-to-be first OTCh. would “never amount to anything.” At the time, I was crushed. (I still don’t know why people do this but obviously they feel the world is a better place for their observations.) When Connor finished several months later, I realized people's opinions are just that. Don’t accept criticism from someone if you wouldn’t take advice from them.

1 comment:

  1. I don’t train dogs in sport, but I did train at some level for about three years. And yes, it is complete sacrifice. And even NOT in the world of sport, even in the world of “train your dog in basic non sport obedience” local classes, the trainer told me to give my dog back. He wasn’t a good fit for me. I showed him. My dog was one of 5 (of 12 who competed that year) who completed his stupid “iron dog” competition. And my dog saved my house from burning down. He saw a dog who couldn’t be controlled. I saw a dog who wanted to work, NEEDED to work and a trainer who only valued medium drive dogs. The kind you had to work a little harder to motivate to work, but not too much. The kind of trainer that didn’t know how to put the brakes on a high drive dog, who didn’t believe anyone could match him. He undervalued my dog while other trainers I eventually met reveled in his drive and gave me ideas on how to channel it. So yah, even in the non competing dog sport world, you get unwanted opinions from “those in power” (trainer). At first, it’s easy to dismiss opinions of the average joe about your dog, it’s harder to dismiss the ones in power until you realize that they are human, they are flawed and they don’t walk in your shoes. They don’t know who you are and what you and your dog are capable of. My dog, the one he told me to “give back” saved our house from burning down. I can’t help but feel smug about that. My dog rocks, our relationship is strong. I’m far from a perfect handler for him, but there was no one else. I was his last hope as he’d been passed around so much for his high drive. Giving him back wasn’t an option and I’m glad it wasn’t. Never for a second would I’ve considered that, despite our rocky start (omg the bruises I had from training). No, I never doubted my relationship with my dog, nor my dog and that opinion to this day reminds me of just how human advice-givers are. Take everything with a grain of salt, especially those who only see you 2% of the time with your dog. Consider opinions but realize how hey come with far fewer pieces of information about YOU or your dog.