While walking out of my yoga class one day, I struck up a conversation with the instructor about a particular asana, frustrated that I wasn’t able to reach a certain place in the pose.  He commiserated with me and told me he wasn’t able to either ten years ago.  The pep talk he gave me sounded a lot like the pep talk I give my students when they are frustrated with something they are not able to do as trainers.  Neither could I, I tell them, when I started.  Dog training, yoga, playing the piano — learning new skills as an adult is hard.

It’s a lot to learn to watch your dog, mark the right thing, feed the right way, hold the leash, and keep it loose.  And of course, do this all while walking.  It’s a skill set all its own. We call it dog trainer mechanics.  You get better with practice is always my answer.  Keep training.  Keep practicing.  I have been doing yoga consistently for a year now.  I can do things now that I would have laughed at last year, but I want to cry over what I still have yet to master.  Ten years.  Thousands of hours.  Whatever buzz phrase you use, the implication is it just takes time to get good at a new skill.

My yoga instructor was very encouraging, but he can’t do the work for me.  I still have to keep showing up.  I try to be encouraging to my students but, alas, I can’t do your work for you.  You still have to keep showing up for yourself and for your dog.

I have been training dogs for over a decade now. I am not the trainer I was in the beginning. I would not give the same advice today as I did to those early clients (sorry guys). I hope I feel the same way about today’s clients ten years from now (sorry guys).  I keep learning and so do you.  I promise that if you keep training your dog and keep taking classes from me, from the other great trainers in our area, or online, and keep reading books, you will not be the trainer you are today ten years from now — hell, even a year from now.

You also can’t rush the learning process.  That just makes it worse.  If I push too hard in yoga to get to a place my body isn’t ready for, I will injure myself.  If you push your dog or yourself into training places you are not ready for, you will injure your relationship and possibly your dog (this is seriously true for you with agility aspirations).

Find a good teacher/trainer/coach and then just keep practicing.  Show up to class, take weekend seminars.  Read the books and blogs we tell you about, and listen to the podcasts we tell you to listen to. But most importantly, have patience with the process.  You don’t get to set the pace, but you can keep returning to the game.  Every week/day for years, and you and your dog will get somewhere, together.  And the next dog will be a whole new ballgame.  You will not make the same mistakes, but you will make new ones.  And the learning will continue.

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