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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65 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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781 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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1296 Hits

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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1520 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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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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19395 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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1026 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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1468 Hits

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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1654 Hits

Preparing Yourself for Big Dog Events (Even if You're an Introvert)

Big events are wonderful.

Big events are scary.

Big events in our dog training/ sports world can be a trial, show, championships, nationals, seminar, camp or any time a major outcome goal is on the line.

We often talk about taking care of our dogs through the process: making sure they have the skills to function in that environment; bringing lots of treats; focusing on what they are doing right; setting up their crate area in a good place for them; balancing time out in the atmosphere with time to nap and rest; stopping and assessing where they are at and determining next steps. All these things sound great on paper — and they are!

But if you aren't taking care of yourself, they become moot points. You won't perform at the best level possible unless you are both on your A game.

Events like this feel scary because they matter. They are important to you, and that's why you care. And caring is good right? So, what can we do to take care of ourselves at these events? We need to plan ahead for OUR needs. 

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1755 Hits

Teaching Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle

Teaching your dog to be comfortable wearing a muzzle is a good idea for a number of reasons. One of them is safety on a hike: if you don't trust your dog 100% around dogs, critters, people etc., having her wear a muzzle will help you relax. If your dog doesn't like strange dogs invading her personal space, but you would like to take her hiking in places where you will occasionally encounter off-leash dogs, having her in a muzzle keeps everyone safe. (Having her on a leash doesn't do that, because strange dogs may still run up to her.)

When I have Grit off leash in an area where we might encounter dogs or people, I usually have her wear a muzzle. She is good with dogs who keep out of her way or greet her politely, but she is not the kind of dog who appreciates rambunctious dogs who come barreling up to her.

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1894 Hits

The Power of an "Aha" Moment: 10 Lessons that Changed How FDSA Students Train

Everyone in positive training has heard it: When you know better, do better.

But that "know better" is going to look a little different for everyone. Sometimes, we need to hear the same message said multiple ways from different people before it truly sinks in. At FDSA we give out a lot of training advice. And if i say so, most of it is pretty dang good. But some moments stand out as better than good.

Better than "better," even. 

For today's blog post, we turned to our students to find some of those gems — the moments that stood out to them as major "aha" moments, the things that changed their perspective, shifted their training, and helped them become "better" when training their dogs.

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1734 Hits

What To Do When It All Goes Wrong: Dealing with Frustration & Failure in Dog Sports

Dealing with disappointment in the heat of the moment is tough. 

When you expect success and glory and are instead embarrassed, mortified, or otherwise upset it's a pretty human reaction to get upset, distressed, angry or uncomfortable. 

There are a whole lot of techniques and tools that we can apply to the aftermath of such a stressful moment. In that exact moment, though, when you look at your canine partner and think "WHO ARE YOU?" or "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS" or whatever other negative thought stops your brain from functioning — well what can you do?

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2377 Hits

Dealing with Negative People: A Guide for The Positive Dog Trainer

So. It's happened. Maybe for the first time, perhaps for the 50th. No matter. It still stings, enrages you, upsets you, and gets under your skin.

Somebody made a snarky comment about you as a trainer, your positive training choices or, even worse, your dog.

The nerve! How dare they?

You chose to be a positive trainer after careful consideration, perhaps even after using a more forceful, punishment-based methodology. You might look up to many amazing positive trainers and be certain that if you were just as good a trainer as they are then the comment wouldn't have happened. 

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2423 Hits