I meet a lot of people who have lost their dog training mojo, they DID try, they DID want it, they DID hire a trainer or they are or were a trainer, but for some reason, many reasons maybe, it did not work, things didn’t change, something went wrong.
Now if you found yourself in a situation where your dog developed a problem, and you have never previously trained a dog successfully, you may have no success to look back on, nothing to draw from other than blind faith and hope, which can quickly fade if you have fallen on failure, this may be where your dog training mojo went!
Maybe you were trying and have fallen victim to the world we live in where everyone is an expert online.
They often don’t have to have any real experience, they often don’t even have a well trained dog, or even own a dog to criticize, attack and generally shit on someone, perhaps someone they don’t even know.
They don’t know your situation personally, maybe not even at all, they don’t know your dog and probably don’t care either.
Once upon a time, we were given the right to freedom of speech, gee haven’t some taken that right too far!
As Forest Gump says “stupid is as stupid does”, or maybe that was his mum.
Professionally, it is quite surprising to me how “competitive” many people in this field are, I mean there is miles of work for everyone, Australia is a country with a high dog population and you can be pretty sure that if you provide a good service, you will not be short of work.
A good service is where you satisfy or exceed the expectations of the majority of your clients.
No one will satisfy everyone; many variables that are often out of your control make this a fact.
Maybe you have been exposed to a dog sport and you became motivated to give it a red hot go, but it turns out that your dog isn’t capable, suitable or has the health or temperament to make your dreams come true…
Well, again, that’s life isn’t it, Shit happens, another Gump reference!
I guess when one or maybe many of these things find you, your dog training mojo can really take a hit.
I’m not a therapist, well not a qualified one anyway, so I am not going to try and counsel you, but instead I am going to share where I draw some of my inspiration from.
I wrote a post about a dog I grew up with, my Black Lab “Boy”, I got him when I was maybe 6? and I still remember that day.
You can read it here (http://blog.k9pro.com.au/the-family-dog/)
He and his litter mates were “free to good home” and when we turned up to have look at the litter of Labs, we got out of the car and I called “here Boy” and he was the first to come running.
I chose him and he came home with me and this blog tells some of the story BUT!!!, that feeling when I called “Here Boy” and he CAME!
He responded to me; I can speak dog! I was thrilled and 40 plus years later I remember that day vividly.
I loved that dog, I taught him lots, most of it was rubbish mind you but I experienced the feeling of communicating effectively with another species and I guess I can say I was hooked.
There were times when I had grown up some that I was training dogs I owned, I wasn’t a trainer or anything, but I was training my dogs of the time.
I remember teaching one of my German Shepherds to drop on recall, not for any competition but just so as if the dog was a distance I could down the dog for safety reasons, oh and I thought it would be cool.
I broke the exercise down and taught the pieces and put it all back together again. Nice.
I was out bushwalking with my dog when I heard a noise, and he was off after a Rabbit, he was belting after the rabbit and raced across a nearby, luckily quiet back road.
I recalled him and he turned and started racing toward me, cool right. Well anyway a car appeared on that road and was heading along it, my dog was heading toward me on a collision course with the car.
DRRRROOOOPPPP! I screamed and my god, I still remember watching him hit the deck and slide like a baseballer to a halt before the road.
The car drove by and he was safe.
Words cannot tell you how good that felt, I guess for me and my dog. The road was clear, and I recalled him again and he belted toward me where patted him like I had not seen him in years.
Time went by and I was lucky enough to be trusted to help other people train THEIR dogs, and I started to get THAT FEELING when I was able to TEACH a PERSON to TRAIN A DOG!
The Adrenalin and endorphin rush that came with it was super addictive.
It pushed me to be better and being better meant more people brought me more dogs, dogs that needed to perform important tasks, dogs that had behaviour problems no one else could seem to solve, people that wanted their dogs to win against tough competition.
I don’t remember too many setbacks, and I will tell you why.
People focus on what is wrong, not the solution. So many people are problem focussed.
Client: “My dog lunges at people, I want you to train him to stop”
Me: “what would you rather him do?”
Client: “not lunge”.
You know, it can be very hard to reinforce a dog for NOT doing something, because when he is not doing that, he is doing something else, you may not know what that “something else” is.
When I teach the dog owner how to teach and train a solid sit stay, and a person walks past and that dog remains in a sit / stay, the pure JOY they experience is Dog training mojo building joy.
This is not the cure for aggression, it is just the start, but a successful start.
Dogs come in trying to bite me, I manage that part but focus on walking near me, or sitting near me. When the dog is focused on those behaviours, the attempts to bite stop.
I look up and the owners are sobbing.
It has been so long since they have seen their dog near a stranger without fear, without stress and without aggression, it is like they just saw a miracle from their god and are overwhelmed by emotion.
To be empowered with a skill set and instincts to communicate with dogs and help them overcome trauma, fear, anxiety and focus just on something else is something else, it’s pretty emotional for me too!
Can other people or trainers do this? Of course!
Am I the best there is? Who cares?
I don’t rank myself against others, life isn’t a sport, made of points or rank.
If I am trusted to help someone with a dog they love deeply, I am going to give it my best, and I am going to try my hardest to make sure that my best is good enough or better.
I can’t do no more than that, and in my profession, most times I nail it.
When my daughter was 5, I watched her train her Labrador puppy, Rosie Cheeks
I experienced a dog learning really useful skills
I experienced a child / person loving the training experience
She is my child so there is pride as well!
Rosie Cheeks has turned out to be an incredible dog
I work with a lot of people who compete in dog sports, I always have, but I also developed a group of people who love the benefits of my performance training insights and my training in drive program.
Team K9Pro, as it is called, range between 25 and 30 members from all over Australia and New Zealand. They compete in a huge range of dog sports with a multitude of breeds, and I work with these people to help them experience that “feeling” that rewards me so much personally. Sharing that with these people is easy when we produce results like this (check this out).
So, here is the secret to getting back that dog training mojo
The first thing to know is that the target you aim for is not so important to begin with. I have coached people who have topped the IGP / IPO training fields and I have coached people to teach their dog to put a piece of rubbish in the bin for an assessment they were working on.
The secret is the joy was the same in both people. They were both challenged, they overcame the challenge, communicated with the dog and found success.
The trick is that most people can train dogs, they just don’t know they can.
We get people bring us dogs daily, hundreds a year. We ask them to fill out detailed forms.
Often they say they are hopeless trainers when asked on the questionnaire. The questionnaire also asks if their dog is toilet trained and 98% reply with “yes with no accidents ever”.
This seemingly super reliable behaviour was trained by the owner, you! The hopeless trainer!
What people often need is guidance, smaller steps, targets they can work towards, and maybe to have those targets broken down a few more times for them without judgement. Maybe a different approach, different angle or different order may help.
I have never met a dog I could not teach things too.
You have to be patient though and realise that they may just need this time to learn. Be patient with yourself.
Education and experience are cumulative, for dogs and people.
This means when someone comes to me and they have worked with a dozen trainers previously, and within a little while, the dog is great, be aware that from the day the training started, with those dozen trainers right up until us, that success you now have is probably spread across them all and YOU TOO!
Set your goals too high and success will not come for a long time, in that time you may get knocked down by your own lack of confidence or somebody who kicks you to make themselves feel better.
Break your goal into several smaller goals and find joy faster and more often.
Fall in love with training and not finishing training or getting that title, because if you do, you will have dog training mojo to burn!
People will tell you that your doing it wrong, it will be a disaster, it wont work, there are better ways, but doing nothing is one of the worst things you can do.
And for those that don’t understand what your doing, Friedrich Nietzsche was thought to have said “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Remember your dog and if you want him or her to understand you, start by trying to understand them.
Be flexible, because you want your dog to be flexible.
This doesn’t mean let them do what ever they like, but there are many ways to teach and train, not just your “ideal” way or the highway.
Celebrate the wins no matter how small they are and don’t sweat the small stuff that goes wrong, if it doesn’t go right today, there is ALWAYS another day, another chance, another trial, another go.
People will call our office to make a booking, they say they have been before, many years ago and now have a new dog.
The office staff mention this when I come into the office and I ask their name, very often I remember them and their previous dog, even from 20 plus years ago.
Why? Because I remember the moment IT happened, that moment that the light bulb went off and the dog and or the person “got it”.
When the owner saw the dog do something beyond what they thought capable.
I picked up that leash as a kid and something happened to me. When people have lost their dog training mojo or perhaps never had it, IT has not happened enough to them or, never at all.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t.
Yes you have failed before, yes you’re a shit trainer, yes you have screwed up, yes you have been to other trainers and failed, yes you have given up, yes your dog is badly behaved, dangerous, aggressive and yes it’s all your fault.
Now that is all out of the way, what are you going TO do, because I don’t care about all that above, I don’t care too much how you got here, who you trained with and what went wrong, and I am not going to focus on anything but what TO do, and neither should you.
Invest in yourself, it is the best investment a human can make.
Learn to win.
Learn what winning actually is.
Learn to celebrate the steps not just the end.
Move away from people who tell you that you can’t do it, it can’t be done. They just mean THEY can’t do it.
You do that with the right help and back that dog training mojo will come!
We can help you do these things with your dog, but must try.
Here is a funny story, and I made it up, perhaps inspired by Gilligan’s Island, but here goes.
20 people are marooned on a desert island.
No food, no shelter and no fresh water or the means to make any.
A couple of days go by and one of the people decide to swim to get help.
The other 19 tell him it can’t be done, stop, don’t try, you will die, you will fail.
He turns to them and says “if I stay here I will die and fail anyway, may as well try something!”
The 19 others become irate, yelling at him, trying to drag him away from the water.
He breaks free and runs into the water and starts to swim.
The 19 others tell him he is a fool, to stop, he is crazy and start throwing rocks at him to stop him, he doesn’t look back, or listen to them and any rocks that hit him he just ignores and focusses on swimming.
I have always tried to be that one guy, and you can believe me I have had way more than 19 try and stop me, they just never did.
People ask, “was it hard?”
I say “nope, who would want to be on an island with those arseholes lol.”.