Failure is my Friend: Redefining the meaning of Failure

Failure is a word that has a bad bad bad rap. I mean the poor word really did get the short end of the stick. People just have it all wrong. They see failure as something bad. Failure means you're not good enough, you didn't try hard enough, people look down at you, you're a loser. 

Failure evokes a host of negative feelings… depression, unworthiness, fear, anxiety, shame, disappointment, being less than, not measuring up, thinking that everyone else has achieved while I have not… I have "failed". We obsess about how it makes us look in other people's eyes. We define our self-worth by external accomplishments and when we don't achieve them, once again we have failed. 

The truth of the matter is everybody's got it all wrong.

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The Lemonade Conference 2022 Lunch Panel: The Future of R+ Training

Host Melissa Breau with panelists Denise Fenzi; Kamal Fernandez; and Dante Camacho talked about The Future of R+ Training during our lunch break for the Lemonade Conference on February 13th, 2022 — and we've shared it here for those who missed it live!

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460 Hits

Setting Goals for the New Year: A discussion with Megan Foster, Petra Ford, and Sharon Carroll

How do you set goals for your training? Ever wondered how leading sports competitors do it? Megan Foster, Petra Ford, and Sharon Carroll recently offered a free webinar on the subject, just in time for the new year — and we've shared it here for those who missed it live!

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1938 Hits

Getting started in dog sports: Why seemingly "unlikely" pet owners may actually be *perfect* for dog sports

"My dog loves jumping on the furniture and running across the back of the sofa. He would be great at agility!"

To my dog training friends… professional and hobbyist:

How many of you rolled your eyes?

Be honest! I know I have!

The idea that a "pet person" could think that because their dog liked jumping on the furniture – likely "out of control" – they could compete in agility?

How many of us have disparaged the thought, deemed that owner ignorant of what is involved in training for agility, and becoming competitive in the sport?

Or in freestyle (my dog loves to walk on his hind legs!), or flyball (my dog loves tennis balls!), or obedience (my dog has a great stay!). Pick your sport.

We were all there once.

Few of us entered the world of training and dog sports knowing what we know today, nor does what we know today mean we won't learn more tomorrow. We were once one of "those pet owners."

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1710 Hits

Making training a hard habit to break

It's been a strange year to say the least....Many of us found that in trying to deal with the day to day stress of living in the year 2020 our motivation to train has suffered.

I did not train at all yesterday. Though that's not all that unusual. I often skip days and find that my dogs, based on their desire to train after a day (or more!) benefit from the break as well.

But go too long and it can be hard to get back on track and find the mojo that kept us motivated. It's easy to get a little sidetracked on your behavior goals when your normal day to day life is disrupted. 

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What it means to own a dog

Think about this for a minute. What it is to have a dog, another species, for a friend? A companion who will be there with you, day after day, asking little more than something to eat and a safe place to live.

I can take my dog's leash off and know that she'll return to me. She will chase critters, smell good smells, snack on fresh grass or play ball, but always with an eye on me. When she is done with her most current adventure, we'll go home together.

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3093 Hits

How to do Hard Things

It's the end of June, which means we are now exactly halfway through the year. Do you remember, way back in January, when you set your goals and plans for 2020? Do you even recall what you intended to accomplish? It feels like 100 years ago, doesn't it?

So, how are those goals working out for you? All met? Knocked out of the park? Or have they been thrown under the bus?

If your hopes and dreams for the year have tire treads through them, you're in good company. For the past weeks and months, many of us have had to put some or even all of our plans on ice and just focus on staying safe, staying calm, and staying healthy.

As a result, it's tempting to just write off the year and hope that 2021 will be better. But we still have a solid six months to turn things around and accomplish things we'll be proud of.

Pause for a moment and pay attention to what your brain just whispered into your ear when you read that last sentence. Did it say "Hell yes! Let's do it!" Or did it toss out something like "What's the point?" or "It's too late now!"?

Take note of how you feel when you look forward to the rest of this year. If you feel tired, heavy, sad, or scared, it's going to be hard to find the motivation to do the work it takes to train your dog and achieve your goals.

Here's why: Your thoughts create your feelings, these feelings fuel your actions, and your actions produce your results. If you aren't achieving the results you seek, work your way back up the chain to figure out the weak link.

(Spoiler alert: It's always your thoughts.)

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1777 Hits

Positive Paralysis – Now what?

You're picking up after the kids in the family room when you hear sounds coming from the kitchen….where your dinner roast is cooling on the countertop. You have a sinking feeling that your dog is about to make a meal out of your dinner.

You're a "positive" trainer who doesn't use fear, intimidation, or physical force to train your dog.

You enter the kitchen to see what is happening and your worst fear is confirmed – your dog is well up on the kitchen counter and heading for your roast.

What do you do?

Wait a sec – I have to change that around a bit, because I have no idea what you do. Let's talk about what I'd do.

So, what would I do?

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The Strategy for Building a Training Plan You'll ACTUALLY Stick To

(Caveat: If you're reading this post after the COVID-19 storm has passed and the world has gone back to normal, or a new normal, everything I have to say below is still relevant and useful to making your training plans a reality! So, read on…)

The COVID-19 pandemic has launched the world into crisis, leaving us all in uncharted waters. We don't know how things will unfold, or what's going to come next. And that's pretty scary.

The upside of this time of Social Distancing and self-quarantine is that many of us suddenly have time for doing things we have been meaning to get to for ages… like training our dogs! So, naturally that's what you've been doing since being stuck at home. Right?

No? Me neither. 

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3134 Hits

The Science of Play: Playing Your Way to Success

Play is an interesting thing. Sometimes it is loose and unstructured, changing to suit the players and the circumstance; sometimes it is codified with rules, rewards, and consequences to suit the game. Even with our dogs – agility rules vary by organization and the structure of personal play changes depending on the dog and person!

Play is studied more often than most people realize and has been studied from a number of different directions – one essential work is The Genesis Of Play (2005) authored by Gordon Burghardt who carefully explored the ways play has been considered in regards to development and behavior across species. While he ultimately posits that it is not essential, nor always beneficial, he contributed some fascinating insights into play.

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2257 Hits

Positive Connections with Positive Trainers: Building Bridges with Colleagues

Yesterday I spent some time looking at the Facebook pages of other dog trainers. I saw videos that were new to me, became re-acquainted with some "oldies but goodies" and had a chance to hear different points of views on random topics. Not a bad way to spend some time!

Then I came across the Facebook wall of a trainer who shares a fundamental belief of mine; that dog training should be kind. And while we clearly take different paths from there, I'd say that's not very important. In the bigger scheme of things, we both believe in the importance of kindness to animals.

One of the first things I found on this trainer's page was a video of another trainer. There were several paragraphs of text explaining why this other trainer and her video were wrong. So of course I watched the video. Who was this person??

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2914 Hits

10 Habits of Mindful Dog Trainers

1. Persistence: Mindful trainers are willing to try, try again. They know that there will be more runs, more days, and the slow and steady approach wins. They understand that frustration is part of the learning curve and don't threaten to quit after every mistake. They don't make excuses; they don't blame others. They carry on. They live in the present experience without wallowing in the past or dreaming of the future. What is happening today is the focus of their attention even as they build for the big picture.

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3555 Hits

How to Handle Criticism of Your Training (Even When It's Hard)

As dog trainers and handlers, we are bound to be critiqued. It can be by your teacher or, more importantly, by a judge at a competition.

If you are in the business of dog training, as perfect as you strive to be, you'll eventually get a student that didn't like your services. Maybe they had a rough day and were already trigger-stacked. Maybe you didn't find a way to connect with them. Maybe they simply didn't like your style.

All of these things are normal, and it's important not to take them too personally.

Easier said than done, right?!

I have to admit, I have a hard time taking criticism. I'm not the best at it. It's a constant struggle for me, because I subconsciously don't allow myself to fall short. I'm sure a lot of you can relate. We've all had difficulties with criticism at some point. No one wants to let the others down.

However, that doesn't mean I don't try as hard as I can to improve how I respond to criticism.

Critics are hard, but remember that both our pride and our need to explain can get in the way of learning how to be a better version of ourselves when someone points out our shortcomings (in a delicate or not-so-delicate manner).

So how can you take criticism the "right way"?  

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2643 Hits

PASSION and PRESSURE: Are you empowering or overpowering your dog?

I've been teaching agility seminars since the early 1990s. Back then, when I was young, R+ training was not commonly used, even in agility training, and it felt like an uphill battle. I used to be quite the zealot in my seminars. I was passionate in my presentation of dog's choice training. Passionate about my beliefs, my viewpoint and the way I choose to train. While I remember loving the job, it must have been difficult sometimes for the attendees to really hear my message through all that opinionated zeal. There's a lot of pressure from passion. It's hard to learn new stuff under pressure. I have a more empathetic approach now. I learned the hard way to practice inspiration rather than coerce others to train my way.

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12 ways to improve your accountability in dog training (and maybe life too!)

To look at ways to improve our accountability we have to make sure we understand the term.

Accountability has become a buzz word, and we, in that way humans do, like to hide behind buzzwords. "If I had an accountability buddy," we might moan, "why, then I would train every day!"

"If only I had some reason to be accountable I would do better at shows."

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3769 Hits

It's a Puppy, Not a Problem

Left to their own devices, what do puppies like to do?

They like to bark, play, run through the house (sometimes with muddy feet), jump on people, put things in their mouths and chew on them, eat tasty foods, explore, sniff things, dig holes in mud and sand and dirt, and a host of other things that I don't have time to mention. They do these things because they are baby dogs. Fortunately we can train our dogs to show more appropriate behaviors, but it takes time and the natural outcome of maturity. Puppies are a challenge.

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20256 Hits

Understanding Hyperawareness: What Happened When I Showered with a Spider

Today I took a shower with a spider.

It wasn't like I volunteered for this; I hopped in and was well along in the process of getting clean before I saw it in the shower pan. And this wasn't a tiny spider – it was a big one. I'd' say 3″ around or so.

Ok. Maybe it was closer to 1″, including the legs. But it FELT like 3″ when I realized that I was not alone.

I'm not afraid of spiders but I also do not choose to take showers with them. I was particularly unthrilled about the thought of one crawling on me when I shut my eyes to rinse my hair. But I could manage, and anyone watching would not have been aware of the turmoil going on inside of my mind as I kept half an eye on that spider and the rest of my brain on getting done with my shower.

And then my husband unexpectedly opened the bathroom door. I startled, screamed, and am quite lucky I didn't go through the glass.

What happened?

My husband has seen me shower before- after 20 years we're well past any issues there. And I had been showering with that spider for a couple of minutes already so that wouldn't have caused my reaction. But in my hyper aware state I seriously overreacted, likely risking my health a good deal more than anything that spider could have thought up to do to me.

When we are agitated, we are hyper aware. That internal state of awareness may or may not show on the outside, but the effort to continue on in a normal fashion absorbs most of our capacity.

Now let's talk about dogs.

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32887 Hits

Feeling Stuck? How to Overcome Overwhelm and Get Training!

"Urgh – she broke her start line," "He shut down when he realized I didn't have a cookie on me," "I don't know what to do next." You've heard each of these lines – perhaps adapted for your sport a little. I know it's a rare week that I don't hear something in this vein.

We train, work and play with living sentient beings. That is wonderful. Something to treasure. Something to complicate our lives. Sigh.

When things go wrong in dog training it's a little like standing at a crossroads in the middle of a very thick forest. It can feel like we have lots of choices to make and no way to see where the paths we are taking will lead. If you are isolated regionally from progressive positive training, choosing what and when to train can seem insurmountable. 

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2142 Hits

Language and Dog Training: Do the Words We Use Matter?

Ok, I admit it! At heart I am a scientist. My training is in maths, physics and psychology – I'm proud of my geek status and am happy to own it! However, the people I train on a daily basis are not geeks. They do not get a thrill when confronted with a new scientific bit of jargon to digest; they just want to be able to DO THE THING, dammit! So, wi...
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Who are you when it comes to dog training?

When asked "Who Are You?" regarding our involvement in dog training, we often have a split personality.

Am I a training geek? Amazed by all the nuances in training? In awe of my dog's ability to learn complex skills and tasks? Learning all that I can about the "science of training"? Exploring around the edges, such as with concept training?

Am I a dog sport trainer? Working with my own dogs as well as my students' dogs in helping them reach their goals of a true partnership in training and their competition goals? Exploring the most up-to-date training methods for my sport? Always on the search to make myself more clear and more valuable to my dog? Creating a partnership that includes concepts such as consent?

Am I a pet dog trainer? Working with inexperienced handlers who have yet to learn how to communicate with their dogs effectively to meet their seemingly simple goals of a well-mannered pet? I say seemingly, because in reality the work of a laymen is often ten-fold the work of an experienced trainer. Much of what they must learn, we now do by rote.

In truth I am all three. That doesn't mean, though, that all three of my "personalities" view training or apply the same techniques in the same way.

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3499 Hits