We just had a shadow student here for 5 days of intensive training with me and the TGD team. We handled a bunch of dogs, all at different points of development in training (from totally green to beginning e-collar), and all with different attitudes, issues, and challenges.
The thing I found us sharing with the shadow student more than anything else was the constant need for creativity. Not that she wasn’t creative, she was, but even with a creative mind it’s still easy to get locked into protocols, blueprints, and methodology.
Here at TGD we have a definite training blueprint we use as guideline with all dogs that come through here. We typically start all dogs a certain way, move through certain phases of training in a certain fashion and so on. But we’re also super open minded to shaking things up. Perhaps the most important part of being a great trainer is being open, creative, and solution focused. The ability to deviate, to experiment, to totally jettison a usually successful technique or approach in favor of something better – for the specific dog in front of you.
As we were working with all the dogs, and if she got stuck on some behavior or exercise, I’d say, “try____”. If we were on pressure with e-collar and the dog was struggling to down with low pressure I might suggest a quick tap instead of holding continuous. Or a slightly higher level, or a slightly lower level, or changing her body position, or…
So often the answer was off the beaten. So often what worked was NOT what we typically recommend or teach. Sometimes it was the exact opposite. It was great for the shadow student to see how often the answer was something not in the standard playbook of typical steps or typical answers.
This is what makes dog training so fun and so challenging. And it’s a great reminder for all you trainers and owners out there. Even if you’ve seen a great step-by-step example, or the perfect blueprint to getting a dog trained for whatever (even if you’re following our DVD’s!!), remember, stay super open-minded, be willing to switch it up and if something’s not working try something else. Get creative. Break some rules.
The cool thing is, if it doesn’t work, you can always try something else. Explore a little. You’re not going to destroy your dog or his or her training with a little experimentation, or even a mistake. But if you stay super rigid and refuse to deviate from a blueprint or protocol you and your dog could remain struck and struggling.