Many of my clients suffer from something that I know all too well; perfection paralysis. It’s the fear of messing up your training beyond repair; the fear that makes us just not train at all. But this condition has an antidote (besides of course the personal work that often must be done!). The antidote is knowledge. The cure is to know that dog training is an applied science. Every single training session contains errors; these need not be catastrophic!
I watch a lot of training videos. My clients’ training sessions, my own, and the sessions of countless other trainers I admire (and some that I don’t). One thing is true across the board: I have never seen a perfect training video. And here’s why that is: perfect training doesn’t exist.
Things will go wrong in even the best-laid plans; the key is to know that you have the power to make the adjustments necessary to help your training get back on track. Keep these rules in mind: reinforcement builds behavior, a high rate of reinforcement is the biggest indication of a successful session, and training should feel like a well-oiled machine. When it doesn’t that is your first clue to stop and re-evaluate. Too often we are used to training feeling like pushing a boulder up hill. It is important to buck that feeling and get familiar with training happening in a clean continuous loop of behavior and reinforcement.
So if you get into a training session and start to feel that fear; that oh no, things are going wrong, what if I break this beyond repair? fear, just stop. Take a break. Review your video. Make a new plan, and know that the science will be there for you; it will always do what it should. Just keep trying, keep training, keep videoing, and you will feel that feeling less and less.
And here’s a perfectly imperfect session with my nephew-dog Kenobi. Enjoy!