Humility in Dog Training – Who does the work?

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Some of you who follow my blog may not know I was a Police Officer for 23 years. 5 years part time while I was at University and 18 years full time after I graduated. During that time I was fortunate to do some really cool stuff which most of the population is not even aware goes on. Regardless of my experience, there was always someone who had done more than me and this always kept my ego in check. I performed various overt and covert roles in the Police. Of my best friends in the world has about 100 times more experience in one particular role that we both did. A close friend of his had operational military experience and had performed for many years in an advanced role which we had done the foundation version of. There is always someone who has done more and knows more. Be humble.

How does this apply to dog trainers? We are in the amazing position to change our clients’ lives (both human and canine) for the better. If we don’t keep our egos in check, this can affect us into thinking that we are bigger and more knowledgeble than we are. We must remain humble. Yes, our clients rely on us to show us what to do, but even if we have two one hour sessions a week with a client, that is still 6 days and 22 hours where we are not there. Good teachers acknowledge the work their students do and allow the student to enjoy the success of their toil. We take pride in being instrumental in those successes but a good teacher never thinks that it was him or her who put in the hours of effort.

Recently, one of my former students, and now friend, Innes passed his BH in IPO with his Dobermann, Kuro. Innes trains postitively in a sport which has a long history and culture of harsh training. I see Innes several times a week putting in the hours training his amzing dog, His effort is admirable. The results are his, not mine and not the other trainers he now works with, to enjoy. Yes, we can enjoy them with him but they are his efforts, not ours. We would never think that a gold medal at the Olympics belonged tot he coach (not unless you are the husband of a gold medallist swimmer but that’s for another time).  A great coach knows the efforts belong to the athlete, a great athlete acknowledges the coach’s tuition.

I have a woman and her Collie I am working with just now. We have been working together for several months now and we are seeing great changes in this little dog’s behaviour. She has gone from being confused in many environments to being really confident. It is a wonder to behold. Fiona and Breagha did this, I just helped put them on the right path.

I was at The IMDT conference at the weekend outside London. I caught up with some people I haven’t seen in ages, one of whom was my friend Mus, who is one of the best human beings I have had the pleasure of knowing. I posted a picture of us on social media and a trainer we both know and have taught commented saying that we were two of the people who have been intrumental in his learning. Mus replied saying “It’s all you mate”. This made me like him even more. Humility. At the conference I heard some information presented which was either new or presented in a way I hadn;t heard before. Steve Mann spoke of releasing tension in dogs, a concept I had never thought of consciously. I thanked him for it, this keeps us grounded.

Yes, we do change our clients’ and dogs’ lives. Yes, it’s very likely they couldn’t do it without us or certainly not in that way. But be humble, stay grounded, none of us know everything and there is always more to learn and different ways to look at things. Have what martial artists call a white belt mentality, it keeps you hungry and humble.

Be well and happy training.

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