When I first got into dog training, I wanted immediate success with everything. This did not mean wins at competitions (though this was about the only thing that was excluded really) – I wanted to see quick learning in my dog (who btw was adopted by us at 9 years of age – yes I was very motivated!) in all areas of life: walk on leash well, know sit and down on verbal cue, do 50 tricks, do not chase the cats and chickens, stay with me off leash wherever we go, no stealing of food etc.
I went to a group lesson at an obedience school in my town. Not only did they recommend prong collars and scolded me for using a harness, but the dogs didn’t seem to have learned anything in the first lesson. The horror! What a waste of time and energy, I thought. If there was no significant learning, the time would have been better spent at a park in the sunshine instead of this dark building with the grumpy instructor. Interestingly, the other owners (none of them a first time dog owner like me) felt differently. Success took blood, sweat and tears (and prong collars, apparently). I quit the class and never went back.
It is interesting that one major point we communicate to others is that dog training takes time. That they have to lower their expectations and be patient. It should be the other way around: We should encourage others to be impatient and pushy. We should encourage others to constantly seek new methods, better ways of explaining, to try and be a more effective trainer every day.
There is a difference between being impatient with your dog and the training method. With your dog, have all the patience of the world. But with the training method, be as critical as possible. Video yourself to look for tiny improvements. Discuss your methods with others. Most importantly, discuss the methods with the ones that are teaching them.
I actually think we are doing our dogs a disservice by being too patient about slow methods. They deserve to have the best possible trainer. They deserve to learn quickly and be challenged at the peak of their intelligence, not the peak of the method.
I still have the same attitude as in my first lesson. If my dog has not learned anything in a session, it was a wasted session. After those I usually go and sulk in my bedroom for a while, wracking my brain for a better way to train. Sometimes it takes three days before we have another session. Usually those sessions after a thinking-break are the best. I plan them with effectiveness in mind, with the urgent need to have improvement and clear up things in those few minutes.
Let’s tell others to be pushy, critical and never completely satisfied with training. This is how progress works.