I was looking at the mandate,mission statement, etc of the Pet Professional Guild the other day. Lots of really great stuff in there. It got me thinking. My life with dogs horses and people have continually reinforced the power of positive. Learners rarely, if ever, make mistakes out of spite, a desire to “get you”, or because they want to be wrong.

Mistakes get made. Much more frequently than recognized  playing working with animals most of the mistakes are human in nature. In human teaching the same is true though perhaps even less discussed. If a class of 14 year olds is over exhausted or over excited it is probably not a great time to introduce a new concept – far better to review and reinforce something most students are close to understanding.  (Same holds true in animal land but somehow seems easier for one handler to adapt for one animal- though I have watched drilling that was planned and therefore “had to be done” even though it wasn’t likely the best/smartest move.)
Two key components I believe any educator, handler, or trainer truly trying to be positive, in any setting with any species needs to embrace, beyond the guiding principles of groups like the Guild, are  be FLEXIBLE and PATIENT.

Flexible captures the need to be able to adapt to the learner in front of you.We are all individuals after all! Being flexible means planning (you have to have something to adapt) but being able to asses, regroup and change things as needed. When something works well not presuming that is the only way to do it, or that method will work as well in all situations. Flexiblity also implies an ability to stretch – adding more things to a toolbox as needed; pushing yourself for more; delving into subjects wholly. Considering the person/dog equation and work in a framework that is comfortable while pushing boundaries. If expectations are too high and you are getting frustrated work with a trainer or training buddy. Note the things that are positive- often if there is frustration you may not even realize there are things going well. If things are stagnating work with a trainer/training buddy – challenge yourselves, change things up. Balance is a key component to  flexibility.

Patience really is a virtue in education and training. It’s a tough one to internalize but so critical to being able to enjoy the journey. Without a patient attitude I cannot understand how playing training can be any fun. Patience allows ongoing assessment that is honest and critical of where you are and where you should be aiming next. If you need to regroup and step back with patience you will be able to see it’s part of the journey. Without it you may be disappointed or angry about a perceived set back.