It is normal to feel flustered when learning something new, or when increasing your skills to the next level. It is also normal for your dog…
Learning is more than just doing something repetitively. There is an emotional part to the learning, and at times, you may feel insecure, unsettled, nervous, self-conscious, agitated or confused. Your dog experiences this same roller coaster during training.
I’ve seen students quit training when they felt these feelings. I try to make the training safe and incremental, but still, some students have a hard time when learning new skills. It takes them out of their comfort zones, and for some, it can shut them down or cause them to run away. I had a student do this a couple of years ago. She found the training to be difficult. Things that most students find easy, she found to be hard, such as holding the leash properly, or coordinating her pace with her dog during Heeling. The warning signs started popping up in her self criticism early on. Then at some point, she displaced those feelings towards me, and felt like I was setting her up to fail. The final stage was when she would only do lessons if her husband was there. In the meantime, I was encouraging her, trying to break things down into small pieces, and demonstrating how to do things. But, she eventually quit the training. She was used to being competent at the things she did in her career and life, for example, because those had become safe. But, having to learn something new, and doing it in public, caused embarrassment, and she couldn’t face that. It was a real shame, because I try very hard to make the lessons very easy for everyone. I just couldn’t get inside her head to deal with what she imagined was going on.
Similarly, some dogs get flustered during training. I remember a dog I worked with about 10 years ago. A puppy. We were doing everything at the beginning with tasty treats. But, whenever we started something new, she would shut down, turn her head away, not eat the treats, and the lesson was over that day. So, I broke the skills into even smaller parts, and shorter sessions, but she would still shut down at times. She was a very sensitive dog. It wasn’t about intelligence, it was the pressure of doing something she wasn’t familiar with. She took a lot longer to train than the average dog, but in the end, she was able to do basic, intermediate, and advanced obedience. However, all along the way, her soft nature made the learning go very slowly.
Being flustered is a normal thing in learning. It is ok to feel unsettled, and if you train with me, I will understand and work with you and your dog to get you the desired results and help you feel grounded. I ask that you be patient with yourself and your dog. It will all work out. Let me know if you are having these issues, and I’ll be sure to make things flow. I’ll give you extra encouragement, and we will get your dog trained. You’ll also be able to look back when we are finished and feel very good about what you have accomplished.