You can’t outsmart your training. In other words, in an emergency situation, you and your dog will only respond as well as the level of your training.
Let me define what I mean by training, because there is a difference between learning and training. You might have seen what to do with your dog in a book or video, or from listening to someone discuss training. But, until you have practiced that skill to a level of high proficiency in stressful set ups, you won’t be ready to use that knowledge if an emergency comes along that requires you to make it all happen correctly. Training is practice until you reach real world proficiency.
This is kind of a scary thought. I see people take their dogs through all manner of training programs, only to end up with a dog that can’t be controlled when the time comes for that training to actually work. It’s kind of like taking a martial arts class, but always wondering if the fight actually came to you in the streets, would you be able to defend yourself. If the training was good, then you have a chance. If not, then you will be beaten to a pulp or be killed. And if your dog training wasn’t good, then your dog might end up severely injured or dead, or someone else or another animal injured or dead.
Thus, the first thing I want for my students is to get beyond just mere memorization of the exercises, and to cross over into understanding WHY we are doing this and HOW to apply it, even in stressful situations. Unfortunately, some students can’t get past that point, and no teacher, regardless of the topic, can make all their students excel. I explain to every student that you must embrace the insecurities and emotional roller coaster that comes with any learning experience. Some days you’ll ace everything. Some days, you’ll feel like a klutz. That is a normal part of the learning process, even for your dog. We are not machines, so you’ll have good days and bad days. I want you to practice your exercises even on days when you are not having a good day (just so long as you don’t take it out on your dog), so your BRAIN learns to think clearly when under stress. If you only train when conditions are perfect, then you are not inoculating your brain to the kind of stress you will experience during an emergency. You’ll then do the wrong then, and the dog dies.
This is why I don’t believe in “board and train” or “bootcamp” training. You never get this kind of inoculation, so even if the dog was well trained, you’ll freeze in the real world, and your dog will still be injured or killed. Same with most group training classes.
I incorporate a number of challenges for my students throughout the training. Similarly, I do things in the training to get the dogs prepared for emergency situations. Part of that is training the dogs in real world situations, so both the owner and dog get used to what it is going to be like. And when I see proficiency, then the program is completed and they “graduate”, and can move on to the next level if they wish.
Your emotions will always override the training. So, you have to be able to program your mind such that it can deal with strong emotions in emergency situations and it all happens automatically. You won’t be able to out think your lack of proper training. No one innovates things when the stress levels are high, you’ll instead revert to the level of training you’ve received and maintained.
So, consider this when we do lessons together. When I correct your work, it is never personal. When I pile on the homework, embrace it. When you feel insecure, realize I’m putting you there until you don’t feel insecure any more. This is good training. This is what you are hiring me for in the first place.