By STEPHANIE VICHINSKY
My job title is technically “dog trainer,” but I really consider myself a teacher, not only for dogs but for people as well, and one of the qualities of a good teacher (in my opinion) is an unending willingness to learn. Dog training, despite many stereotypes, is a very complex and skilled career. It takes many years of dedication, study, effort, consistency, and an intense desire to be better in order to get better. People wouldn’t guess this about me, but I have my employees film my training sessions several times a day. I don’t use the footage for anything other than to study my techniques at the end of the day. I consistently watch my own work to see where I can improve. It will always be this way, regardless of how good I become.
Part of my job as a teacher is to teach my staff this highly skilled profession and hold them to this standard. When dealing with new trainers, it is critical that I point out their mistakes consistently (there are many) and help them create new habits. There are always tempting shortcuts with any new skill, but those shortcuts hinder us in the long run.
One of my newest trainers has been studying a specific skill we use for all dogs, but especially fearful dogs. It is very intricate and requires a great deal of time to master. When I noticed my young trainer struggling, I pointed it out, and my trainer being the ultra ambitious type that she is, instantly set out to do more practice. She said, “Practice makes perfect.” But this old saying is very incomplete.
Many people practice poor techniques and never get any better. This applies to many things in life. Some people have been practicing a skill incorrectly for 20 or 30 or 40 years, and it shows. Someone who has been practicing the correct techniques for 10 years will be significantly better in a shorter period of time. The saying should be, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”
If you are struggling with your dog, don’t stop seeking knowledge. No one knows it all, even the best of the best. If you’re stuck in a rut, try something new. Do your research. Ask questions. Ask for critiques. Don’t settle for mediocre. Open yourself up for criticism even if it stings your ego, because it is only at that point that you can start practicing the right way. When we become better for our dogs, they become better for us.
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is the owner/head trainer of Method K9
in Post Falls