Learning how to learn, it’s important for humans too.



I have a joint Honours Degree in Immunology and Microbiology, I graduated in 1996. In my honours year, I studied Bacteriology as part of my Microbiology degree and Molecular Genetics as part of my Immunology course. Dr Anderson taught us bacteriology and Dr Henry Brseski taught us molecular genetics. To give you a bit of the background, I really enjoyed the microbiology portion of my degree, not so much the immunology part and definitely did not like the biochemistry portion (sorry Henry)

Dr Anderson taught us my providing detailed noted which he very often dictated and I came away with 4 or 5 pages of notes after every lecture. He was engaging and entertaining and I did my Honours dissertation under him. Dr B was slightly more standoffish and I really didn’t like him up until I was in 4th year (senior). When Dr B took us for molecular genetics, he came in the first day and gave us a handout with 5 pages of small printed notes (5 single side pages). He told us everything we needed to know and understand was in those 5 pages. My intital thoughts were

“Are you having a laugh? 5 sides of notes?”  (I was much more restrained then than now).

Over the next 12 weeks, the class would sit down and tease apart each of the points on those 5 pages and discuss, study and understand them. I spent many hours on my own doing exactly the same thing with those 5 horribly frustrating pages, which I can still picture so very clearly. At the end of the term, I passed both courses and achieved similar marks.

Fast forward 20 years later. I still have a really basic understanding of bacteriology. I know there is a difference between gram positive and gram negative bacteria but I could not tell you for the life of me which bugs fall into which class. On the other hand, I can explain to my kids and to anyone willing to learn, how DNA works, how it replicates, how genes switch on etc.

How does this relate to training our dogs? The last year has been massive learning curve with Watson. Behaviour is lawful and she follows the laws like any other being on the planet but I had to go back to the drawing board to fully understand and tease apart and contemplate what was going on with her.

I am fortunate to have access fo several world class tutors who I can call on for help. Sometimes it takes me weeks or months of thought to even formulate the questions I want to ask. Everytime I go leave my tutors, I have more quesions than answers and the process begins again. As a result of this, my skill set in being able to train Watson well has increased dramatically. I see things I didn’t see before. I often have moments like in the movie “Unlimited” with Bradley Cooper when he takes the magic pill and his mind opens up. I have these magic pill moments more and more often. This is because I have leaned how to learn properly, or at least am well on my journey. Thess “aha!” moments happen very unexpectedly; when I’m driving, washing the dishes, making dinner etc.

The Positively Excellent Dog Trainers Workshops are designed to encourage this. This is how Clare Russell who runs them with me learned from Kay Laurence. This is how I learned under Clare, Kay and Dr Henry in 1996. It is very uncomfortable at first as we generally haven’t been taught that way before (unless you went to a Jesuit school), but I can guarantee you when you make the commitment to learning this way, you too will have your magic pill moments, very often when you are least expexcting it. If you are working with us, trust the process and trause that we will guide you.

Enjoy the process and the outcome will take care of itself.