My parents were professional musicians. My father was once considered one of the best baritone sax players in the US. Thus, I started playing clarinet at 5 years of age. I was planning on becoming a professional musician as a career. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was practicing 4 hours a day. I learned early on how to practice a skill, diligence, a desire for perfection, hard work, self direction, being competitive, and the difference between sound and music.
Those early life lessons have served me well throughout my adult life. I also teach those concepts to my dog training students.
For example, I like taking something I don’t know how to do, and then learning how to do it. I did that with music (a lot of what I learned was ultimately self-taught). I did it with martial arts. And I have done it with my hobbies. I like being a student, still remember what it feels like being a student, and can see things from the eyes of being a beginner to a skilled master. I’ve been where you’ve been, and I know the journey ahead. I’m able to teach my students how to gain those same qualities.
Part of that process is practice, applying what you’ve been taught, seeking mastery of the skill and of yourself. Proper practice isn’t just skill building, it is also self mastery. You need to master your emotions, your perceptions, and also seeing what is really going on with the dog you are training. Dogs don’t train themselves, you have to do it. The more you work at it, the better you see the fine details of what is going on. You learn to read the dog’s feelings. You see what is going on with the other people and animals in the environment. I will point you the way during our work together.
At first, you must learn the boring basics. Many people never get beyond the boring basics. Even professional trainers are often too wedded to the textbook abstractions of the theories of learning, and never really perceive what is truly going on. It is perfectly fine and appropriate to start there, but it isn’t even halfway towards mastery.
Some get hopelessly sidetracked by gimmicks. There are many falsehoods, charlatans, and cruel procedures down this path of gimmicks. It trips up a lot of people, including professionals. They are no longer practicing good methods and techniques, they are devising shortcuts that cause a lot of harm. I steer my students away from these traps.
Eventually, with enough practice, you will hopefully develop intuition. When you get this far into the journey, you won’t pigeonhole any behavior according to a theory and its textbook definition. Instead, you actually understand. It just makes sense, and then seems so simple you wonder why it isn’t obvious to others. You can also explain it in simple terms, not with big words, so even kids get what you are saying. You can also show it works with any dog, not just certain types of dogs. You have discovered truths along the way. I hope to begin to put these tools in your training box as we work together.
I think there is wisdom everywhere, if you look for it. Pick up a rock, meditate on that rock. Study it, think on it, research it, ponder it, dream about it. With enough effort, you will find wisdom, about the rock and about life. The same happens as you practice towards mastery. It isn’t just about teaching a dog to Sit for a treat. Anyone can do that. That isn’t training. It isn’t mastery. It doesn’t make much sense in the real world. Practice will unlock those secrets of wisdom, but only if you are that wondering and diligent student. Over time, it will all make sense.