Hold the vision. Trust the process. – Author Unknown
He’s going to look flat and uninterested, maybe even wander off. As a trainer you stress about these things, you are aware of all of your dog’s shortcoming – as well as your own – and you see them magnified, envision how they will undo you in the ring, especially the obedience ring.
Gambit is brilliant and funny. He’s a thoughtful dog when he’s training. He can move blazingly fast but only when he wants to, when he feels it’s worth the effort. Gambit’s not very food motivated. He eats, but he doesn’t live to eat. Clover goes nuts when I train her with kibble. Gambit is mildly interested when I train him with liver flavored treats. He quickly loses interest in hard treats, those take more effort. Gambit is also a crate hater and dislikes riding in the car. And Gambit is a teenage boy.
Some days training feels very discouraging and difficult but Gambit is definitely making me a better trainer. And most days, it is quite fun. I am learning to always consider how much Gambit likes an activity, what his current arousal level is and how much enthusiasm I need from him to perform a specific task. Planning out my training times is also more important with Gambit, including utilizing our “crazy training time.” Crazy training time is when I first let him out from being confined and he is the most enthusiastic and revved up.
I try to break our tasks down into small steps, try not to be too overwhelmed by all there is to work on and all the things I think we aren’t doing quite well enough. I try to focus on that smiling face looking up at me when we heel. It is quite an accomplishment to have Gambit looking up at me with intensity, eager to take the next step. And Gambit enthusiastically smashing in to me when I call him for front is something I wasn’t originally sure we could get.
It is the process that is getting us closer to our goal. Showing up and practicing, thinking about how I can find a different way to explain a task or how I can build in some extra motivation for something Gambit isn’t sure is worth the effort. Baby steps, but we are getting there. I just need to hold on to the vision and keep Gambit’s smiling face in focus.
Things I do when I am frustrated and feeling stuck:
*Train for 3 minutes – I can do anything for just 3 minutes. Often I wind up training longer but this helps get me started when I am in a slump and just not feeling like training.
*Shape something goofy – Shaping Gambit to target a back leg to a cone, for instance, is very low stress and not a skill we will need for anything. It’s a chance to give him lots of reinforcement for training and to make sure we relax and have fun.
*Just play and hike for a few days – Sometimes just taking some time off and doing other things, like playing more soccer, helps.
*Play date – Scheduling play dates with Gambit’s dog friends and seeing him happy and having fun is good for me.
*Moan to other trainers – Asking my friends’ advice for my particular training problems is often helpful and gets me to look at things from different perspectives.
When I am really stuck and feeling discouraged, remembering how stubborn I am often helps.
Magic happens when you do not give up, even though you want to.
The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart.
But mostly, I try to smile at my dog. I adore Gambit, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that.