Perseverance pays off

January 8, 2023

A few months ago, I posted a Pro Tip about perseverance being so vital in training.

Today's training - out doing Foundation work with demo pup, "Bug" - reminded me of this important concept once again.

Bug is on day 4 of Foundation training. Her first session of this lesson did not go well, in spite of her being a star student with the first 3 days of Foundation work.

On the first session of Day 4, she was chasing the long line, dropping her shoulder and sprinting to the end of the line (and hitting it HARD) regularly, tangling up and protesting - all the things an almost-4-month-old pup will often do, but things THIS pup had not done during the previous training sessions.

I chalked it up to new snow, the new format and slightly more challenging lesson, and just a rotten session. A lot of folks would've spent too much time over-thinking the issue... "Did I do it wrong?" "Should I go back to Day 3 and do more of that lesson?" "Is this training even working?"

But, having done this method of training for nearly 23 years, and having trained thousands of client dogs, as well as 25 of my own dogs in the method, I have the luxury of knowing the difference between a rough session, and a true training problem.

Sure enough, the second session of Day 4 training went MUCH smoother. In fact, Bug surpassed my expectations, trotting along next to me, letting the extra long line drag out away from her for most of the session.

Success on so many levels! Bug grasped the concept that her handler (me) is unpredictable, even when she *thinks* she knows the game we're her best option is to keep her eyes and ears on me - which is the whole point of Foundation work!

If I had given up, or gone backwards in training, I wouldn't have let Bug learn the lesson in her own time.

Once again, even when a new concept feels too challenging, it's worth it to persevere for a few more sessions, to see if your dog is learning the concepts, in spite of the struggles.

Now, if the second session of Day 4 training had been as bad (or worse) than the first, that would be PATTERN emerging, and I would have needed to re-assess the next steps.

But a single INCIDENT of a bad training session doesn't mean you're doing it wrong, or the dog can't learn, or the training doesn't work. If you begin to see a pattern (multiple bad sessions), then something needs to change, but if it's just one rough session, give the dog a break for a few hours (maybe even a day) and then revisit the session to see if they've learned the new concept.

Very often, they'll surprise you - and ace the lesson on the second attempt. But, if you don't persevere, you'll never know whether you just had a bad session, or if you need to change something in what you're doing!

Jennifer Hime is the owner & Training Director at Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.