Dog training is about communicating with a dog. It is letting a dog know what you would like it to do, and then getting compliance from that dog. There are three skills that I use when I train a dog or help a person modify their dog’s behavior. The three skills are awareness, patience, and practice. Anybody can be aware, anybody can be patient, and anybody can practice.
Part 2: Patience
“Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Until the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
She is present, and can welcome all things.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15
Patience, as I define it here, is the ability to not mind when things (temporarily) do not go as intended and the confidence to know that things will ultimately go as intended. When training and living with animals, patience is very important. Being patient is a practice and a skill. To be patient is to be stubborn. Since I started actively practicing patience in my dog training, I noticed that I am more patient in other areas of life. Nothing rattles me any more.
I think about patience a lot, because it is my natural tendency to be impatient. I will briefly outline some of the strategies that I use to remain cool, implacable (implacability is also key part of getting things done) and patient while working with any and all dogs.
Self-awareness is the first step in remaining patient. My last entry covers awareness. So I will skip over that and you can check it out here.
When patience is lost, the first emotion to arise is frustration. Frustration tends to lead to anger, and anger often leads to action, and angry action can cause guilt. There is no use for frustration, anger, or guilt in dog training. Anger, frustration, and guilt are detrimental to interspecies communication, will harm any relationship and must be eliminated from the training process.
So, in order to avoid frustration and anger, I separate myself (or my ego) from the result and I put it into the process, the actions that I am doing in order to communicate with the dog. In other words, I train myself not to care if the dog sits, but to care a lot about what I do to get the dog to sit. I focus in detail on my actions so that I can replicate it precisely at anytime. I also notice the results of what I am doing. So that I know what I can expect if I do that exact thing again. This is difficult to do as a professional dog trainer, whose reputation and success depends on the dog’s obedience and ability to do as asked. When I am training a dog I cannot afford to think of reputation or success, because those are results as well. Instead I focus on process. Knowing that if the process is correct, the sit will happen, the success will come, and the reputation will grow.
Another thing that I do to remain patient when practicing with dogs is to set a time limit. This is important. A time limit allows me to make the sometimes-emotional activity of training a dog into a job. I am punching a clock. A lot of times training a dog is about repeating the same action over and over again. By setting a time limit, I can know when the exercise will be over before I begin. It also gives me a quick and soothing way to take a break if I start to get frustrated. I breathe and check my time.
The final thing that I do to remain patient is, acknowledge the beginning of frustration decide I will not go that route for the remaining minutes in the training session. This can only be done by practicing self-awareness. I am always looking for signs of frustration in my mood and emotions.
Ultimately, my patience in dog training comes from awareness, mental preparation, and trust in the process. The rewards of patience in dog training are good communication with the dog, a better relationship with the dog, happiness and success, and a good reputation as a dog trainer.
Thank you and keep practicing. Your canine communication skills are very important in improving your relationship with your dog. Enjoy Your Dog!!!