So let’s look at failure – all over again. I am grateful for a fresh perspective to take me beyond agility now (thanks my fabulous wide ranging ALL THE SPORTS students for that insight). I stand behind my long standing assertion that having fun matters a great deal in training and dog sports. If you are enjoying yourself it’s hard to see errors and NQs as failure. Rather you can categorize them as learning opportunities, and information, and take those experiences and put them to work for you..
Yes … I said make the failure work! If you are training the week prior to a trial and find a hole don’t leap to scratch or jump to drill the gap for hours and hours. Look at the information you have and decide how to use the trial experience for benefit anyhow. Where can you push? Where will you support? What strategies do you want to test? (Perhaps looking at your warm up, identifying your stressors or making self care a priority would make a trial experience valuable even if it isn’t going to be a high in trial kind of day) .
I want to tell you something … and listen carefully because someday this concept might be important to, and for, you to really wrap your head around … some dogs ADORE some sports. Watch many collies herd or many terriers hunt for rats if you need proof. Sometimes dogs are not well built or bred for specific sports – think of a chihuahua in disc work or a chinese crested doing water sports if you can’t see what I might mean with that. NO dog likes or dislikes the general concept of training. They may not understand, they may find an element stressful; they are NOT setting you up for failure. They can’t like obedience and not like nose work. All they know is they are using the skills you taught them in a new place and the tension is likely palpable.
If you are finding yourself feeling like a failure, or worrying about a failure that has yet to happen pause , consider why this thing is a failure rather than information. Decide if you are willing to look at the information through a different lens. Use an outsider’s perspective or contemplate if you are simply moving on. If a sport isn’t for you – that’s OK … don’t blame your partner though – they really won’t mind what game they get to play with you once they understand the rules, structures and expectations – as well as comprehending what their
pay reinforcement is and when they will get their highly valued prize!
You don’t believe me? I understand- it’s so freakin’ tempting to say my dog doesn’t like … and rely on that information as a reason to stop the hard work that is successful and positive dog training. And yes, you will have examples of dogs that hate things that you will want to tell me about. I hear you!
Dora still panics over nail trims unless they are done JUST SO … so I’d love to agree with you honestly. The information I take from the fact she doesn’t offer me a hind foot for a dew claw nail trim though? I haven’t done my work yet. Not yet. I will. Someday. I will invest in making sure we back way up and set up clear reward structures and an absolute understanding of what she needs to do to play this horrible game with me. Will she love getting her nails trimmed? Unlikely. Will she figure out she’ll survive? Well yes – we already have a structure in place that gets her safely trimmed without trauma to any of us – we have lots of room for improvement but the panic at the sight of clippers is long gone.