I really don’t think I ever had a particularly easy time when it comes to dog training.
I’m not a super talented trainer who sees everything and reacts correctly and quickly in all – or even most – situations. I have been struggling hard to become a pretty good trainer and if I am to be honest, I think I’m a better instructor than trainer of my own dogs.
I have a hard time keeping track of the criteria, I react too slowly, I often end up just standing there. Just to give you a couple of examples.
No, this is not a post where I try to bring myself down, more of an observation. I don’t find dog training to be easy.
I have been in situations where the instructor has had to walk beside me and perform the exercise at the same time, in order for me to get it. That was a couple of years ago, but still.
It took me several years in competitive obedience before I could act on what happened in the competition ring. In the beginning, I would be completely lost if something surprising happened (and it always did in one of the exercises or between exercises).
But then I started to plan and think. And train.
And train a little more. In the end I was pretty confident. I knew the strengths and weaknesses both of my dog and myself. Often I could predict what would be challenging to us, and have both a plan B and C. I went through all the transitions between the exercises, all the routines for exercises, how I would act, how I could use our strengths to cover up our weaknesses. First it was rehearsed. Then it kind of settled in me. Suddenly I felt quite steady and confident. And above all, I had a lot of fun!
I’m still at the ANNOYING level where I am just standing there sometimes. And that just doesn’t work.
When it comes to retrieving and directional work, and all the stuff that has to do with “ordinary dog training”, I normally feel confident.
“Just ordinary dog training”, where I usually feel safe. If something goes wrong, I’ve trained badly. I can see what went wrong straight away and I understand why what happened. But then we have hunting. Spaniel hunting. The most important part to me. The one who requires 100 percent attention and 1,000 percent quick responses. The one that requires me to be able to read my dog every second. I can’t afford to lose focus if so for a few seconds because then it’s all over. The dog goes out of hand and of course that will be right at the flush…
Last fall I could hardly train or attend trials at all because of illnesses and other things in life that got in the way. This
autumn I have scheduled the training sessions and I’ve also got to borrow a dog that will help me become more skilled. It’s so much fun! Sometimes I think I’m getting better at it, but in the next session (I video the training and trials as much as possible) I’ll be thinking “heavens, what am I doing?”.
I live for the training sessions where “everything is right”, even if it is only for a few minutes. The feeling of flow, the feeling of being in the bubble with my dog, that she’s right on the edge the entire time, but never crosses over, we’re working from full speed to a complete halt, we are fully focused and it’s absolutely amazing. That feeling is the goal!
I try not to have any performance goals at all right now – just emotional goals. When I reach that feeling of flow, I’ve hit jackpot! 🙂