I use to travel quite a bit to give workshops around the country. I liked the travel, loved the groups I worked with, and I appreciated the exchange of ideas, energy, and friendships.
I enjoy giving workshops. I am a ‘get in the dirt and work’ kind of person, so learning by doing makes total sense to me. Education is important, and you have to know how you learn best, but if you cannot apply what you learn, you have a problem. Through workshops, I teach people how to apply what they are learning, so it comes to life.
Most of the groups I worked with had a competition background, or were at least heading that way. But every once in awhile, a dog owner or two from that area would sign up and come, because their extent of dog knowledge had been within the boundaries of a dog park, and they were curious. Was there actually more to learn than sit, come, and NO!? Or a person who was having behavioral issues with their dog and would sign up, sit quietly in the corner and just listen, ‘could there be something here for me and my dog?’ Or the outdoors person who loved hiking, and just wanted to learn more, ‘Would this info help me be a better dog owner while in the backcountry’.
Since I am not traveling this year, I wanted to share with you all one of the elements from my ‘handler focus’ section of a workshop. I designed this portion for just two of my groups, Rapid City, SD and Fairbanks, AK. Hello to everyone!
This info applies to every single dog owner, if they want to do more and do better.
Reading about it is good, sitting on the information and letting it sink in is great, but when you get up and put this into motion, well it is the coolest stuff ever.
THE 6 P’s
You will see great overlap, but just as in life, everything is a whole.
PRESENCE – Besides being a great album from Led Zeppelin in 1976, PRESENCE is the state, or act of existing, occurring, in an area that is close to someone.
Presence in training, in your Team is not just about your dog showing up for the party, but you showing up for the party being slightly more prepared, and slightly more focused. Being present or rather learning how to be present takes a great deal of time to master, for some it is a life time.
It isn’t just about showing up physically, it is about showing up energetically, showing up emotionally, and showing up spiritually. The package of being present.
PURPOSE – The reason for which something is done or created.
If you have even the smallest level of expectation for your dog, you must have purpose when you step out with them. You must carry that purpose, you must build that mental strength. Again, for some this comes naturally, for others it is a life journey.
“he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” Friedrich Nietzsche
PATIENCE – This is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances.
There is a difference between being patient, tolerating, and/or holding your breath and counting to 10 so you don’t explode. Patience in dog training is learning how to look beyond a behavior to what is causing the behavior. It is a natural deep breath without even thinking about it. From barking, to sloppy movement, to shutting down, pushing you relentlessly, or running away. These are all symptoms, and through patience you will be able to find the cause.
It is learning how to be fair, it is learning how to see your dog as your Team mate not as an ‘in put – out put’ machine. In my experience, knee jerk reactions have helped not a single dog owner.
PRECISION – If you want precision you have to be present, and you must have patience!
Your technique counts, it counts a whole bunch. And the more you work on your technique, which starts with a solid foundation in timing, use of space, and keen observational skills, the more likely it is to have those precision with your dog.
You cannot be sloppy in your handling skills and have precision behavior, or even expectations of precision anything, that is a fact. This is handler accountability at its best.
This takes an enormous amount of handler work, an enormous amount of practice, and an enormous amount of time. This does not happen over night, or even necessarily with your first dog, it is a process in building skill.
PATTERN – Do it and do it again and again and again.
Whether you practice by yourself, with your dog, or are a trainer and work with other dogs, you must get super good at patterning, to the point where you own it.
You only own a behavior if you have patterned it into the thousands, and you don’t even have to think about ‘how’, you just can.
Talk with a disc dog competitor, before they work their dog they get out their bag of 50-100 discs, and just throw each one to build better technique, build muscle memory, and pattern their skill.
It doesn’t happen just cuz.
PROGRESSION – Once you stand up, you must progress by taking one step forward, one step sideways, or one step back. Progression is shifting the criteria so you don’t get stuck in a rut, or accidentally squash a behavior.
Just start by taking a step, that is progression.
It is easy to start a behavior, but how many times have you seen a handler actually bring a behavior to fluency, on verbal cue, or subtle body language cue? Not many.
Shifting criteria, ounces of success, is so beneficial for your skills, but also for the communication between you and your dog. Learning is learning on both ends of the leash.
Giant gains are not the goal, but rather constant progression, even if it feels like micro ounces.
I hope to have some time available for workshops in the coming year, but getting my kids squared away at college is the focus for a little while. If you are interested, you can always contact me