The successes and failures of my clients are important to me. That they have more success than failure is vital for my business. Sometimes, in my behavior work, success and failure are literally a matter of life and death.
But when an agility student lands on a podium (or gets out of novice!) that success is not mine. When a dog with debilitating separation anxiety is finally able to be alone for an hour without harming herself or her home–that success is not mine. When an obedience student earns a High In Trial, I do not own that success either. These successes belong to the person and dog who did the work, day in and day out, and took the information I had to give and ran with it. If I was able to help them it is only because they were open to the education I could provide. I love and embrace their successes–I cheer beside them, not over them.
On the flip side of this coin dog professionals and their clientele must note something important; we all must own our failures, too. It is easy to blame your instructor when your dog falls short of whatever goal you had set. Too easy, in fact. A student once left a course, having failed only due to the A-frame contact, tracked me down, pointed her finger, and informed me that I was responsible for this lost Q because I hadn’t sufficiently trained her dog a running A-frame (and I had advocated against a stop). I calmly replied that she was responsible for training her own dog, and that a private lesson could always be arranged if she felt the group class (which isn’t designed for running contact training) was insufficient. I see this kind of exchange all weekend long, and it’s just a lack of accountability, nothing more, as Brene Brown so expertly explains here.
If you’re a dog professional reading this, what I want you to know is that you should not claim your students’ successes OR their failures. Attach yourself to their process. Meet them in the middle. Provide them with the best service you can provide. Send them elsewhere if you know your skills aren’t up to par. Treat them, and their dogs, with kindness. If you have done this you have done your job and it is up to them to rise to the occasion. Do not allow their failures to eat you alive; failures are inevitable (and can actually be wonderful). Too many good professionals have washed out and gone back to the cubicle for this reason.
If you’re a consumer of dog training, in one way or another, know this: every single person who has achieved what you want to achieve in dogs–be it a local, national, or home accomplishment–took the wisdom of a skilled professional and then sought a deeper understanding. They worked hard. It didn’t come easy, and their trainer didn’t do it for them. This rings true for the fierce competitor, the novice exhibitor, and the pet owner who has found themselves in love with a troubled dog.
You will win and lose. Own the process; own the outcome. The responsibility is no one’s but yours.