Training and Oatmeal, they have a lot in common


If you are good at working with another animal, teaching new skills, building complex behaviors, bringing words to fluent understanding, and doing so incrementally, for an onlooker it should be about as interesting as stirring oatmeal.

Training should not be sensational. Training should not be about heightened emotions. Training should not be about entertaining onlookers. Training should not be about tricking an animal. Training should not be about the human end looking more important than the animal end of the leash.

Training is teaching. Teaching is about building cooperation, willingness, and curiosity. Teaching is building life long skills that will help the human and animal Team be successful in life together.

If you are training and teaching correctly you are doing lots and lots and lots, and lots more repetitions and patterning of behaviors. Micro steps, and even micro-ier and minuscule steps, to help with understanding and learning.

And if you are teaching and training correctly you know that there will be productive days and not so productive days, and some just down right crap days. And you accept that as part of life and learning.

So just like oatmeal, it may not be super interesting to look at, definitely not the sexiest food in your pantry, not a great color, and not too exciting to stir around, but in the long run, maybe a super great option for your life long health. Training and teaching correctly is no different.

It is knowing, being awake to the connection, being intentional in the process, and the time spent together. The results are your relationship in motion together.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. tippysmom2 says:

    I liked this post, especially the part about training being teaching to build an animal and human team. It’s not just about getting the animal to do, or not to do something, but is also about the human’s emotions and learning how to relate to the animal with mutual respect and love.

  2. Deb Davenport says:

    “The results are your relationship in motion together.”
    I think I shall write this on the wall – it says EVERYTHING!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      and when you do take a photo and I will post it… If only one sentence could mean something to all of us like this. Thanks Deb, Nancy

  3. Deb says:

    I am so happy that a friend of mine turned me on to your blog Nancy. I feel a kindred spirit. I love training/teaching dogs and people and totally agree that it is as you have described. When we are doing it in harmony. I have BCs and JRTs and they both are amazingly intelligent, and learn sooo very differently. It is an incredible journey and a privilege to be trusted to help learn and train. Incremental or micro learning as you describe it is so rewarding for both dog and handler. So many people want to hurry or rush the path, a very human trait. Woohoo, success, hurry do more… do it again.. again, again…Sound familiar?? My students tire of hearing, two misses, back to what was successful with lots of reinforcement, then move on. I enjoy your posts and the way you share your personal journey. Thanks for validation on what makes so much sense to my mind and especially my heart… Please do keep at it!!

  4. Lisa says:

    Interestingly, when i first read this post, i thought it would be a great pass along to my students – especially my beginner agility students. It’s hard to describe just how much time and training must be done to build the great relationship with your dog that you will need to maneuver through an agility course. However, after reading it again, I think you have described how I try to teach and coach people:

    “If you are training and teaching correctly you are doing lots and lots and lots, and lots more repetitions and patterning of behaviors. Micro steps, and even micro-ier and minuscule steps, to help with understanding and learning.”

    YES – I find myself saying the same thing many times – usually in a slightly different way each time – hoping to see the “aHA!” moment when I finally break through. Then I turn to the next student and try again. Lots of baby steps. Some people do crossword puzzles. I teach agility to humans. Thanks for MY aHA! moment!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Teaching agility is better than crossword puzzles!!! Nancy

    2. Deb says:

      LOL love that. I have people who say “you made this look so easy..” and others who say, obedience is harder than agility. Bottom line it is all about your relationship and how you go about it…

  5. Darcy says:

    Ever had a week were everything goes to shit in a handbag? That would my week, I feel so bad that my work has pulled me away from my family and my puppy. Such is life, but I need to work on my muscle memory by that I mean my muscle in my mouth to say no, enough is enough and let things be. I hate to fail at anything, this week has been a fail on the homefront. I love that I have a loving hubby, son and dog. I definitely need more family time for all in my family, Gracie Mae included. There is something to be said for unconditional love. As I say this I just cleaned up some unconditional love from my pup back at me! Oh, the joys of life overly full at times.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Darcy, I think everyone has weeks like this, no person is exempt… Here is wishing you better weeks with less pulling in all directions. Nancy

  6. Darcy says:

    Thanks for your encouragement. I wrote that comment before our last class …which was like having an alien that took over my pups body. She of course probably thought the same thing since my week was so crazy! I was so shocked at the behaviors but sadly it was handler error and body language. Today was a completely different team thank heavens!!! Nothing like stirring oatmeal but more predictable. She is still squirrel-y and skiddish, seems to not like her leash touching her and hates her harness. (New one, old one doesn’t matter) could this be the fear period? Next week will also be rough since I will be gone until almost class time. Way to go out with a bang huh? I hope she forgives me!! Going to try some new things with her tomorrow. Wish me luck! 😀🙏🐾🐾🐕

  7. ejhaskins says:

    Well, I dunno, but I do not train for the sake of on-lookers. But I DO train for pleasure.
    Stirring oatmeal is a chore, and I very boring one at that.
    Not to mention that a well trained dog is a joy, and well-stirred oatmeal is still gluggy tasteless mush

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