Air Hockey, Leaf Blowers, Cheeseballs… and Self Esteem
Yesterday, one of my clients realized a very important lesson. She was supposed to be playing hockey against her dog, by keeping her cheeseball moving forward with her Leaf Blower, and not eaten by her dog. She was praising her dog for her efforts. Instead, she should have been focused on her goal of trying to keep her cheese ball away from her dog and all the other dogs. But instead, she was focused on helping her dog succeed by praising her when she got close to the cheeseball.
There comes a point in time where helping your dog succeed stops them from succeeding. While help is a necessary piece in all learning, if done for too long, it will actually inhibit progress. At some point, we need to let go, and pray our training is enough to get them through the moment. We cannot hold their hands forever, and have them be strong. We get one, or the other.
I got her to ignore her dog, and focus on keeping her cheese ball on the ground, and not eaten by her dog.
As soon as she focused on her job, which invoked adrenaline in her, her dog suddenly committed to the game. She no longer needed praise and encouragement. She needed fun. She needed excitement. She needed to see her mum squeal as she made her tricky moves almost getting it. She needed to know that her efforts had real impact on her mum. And that she had the power to steal the cheeseball and actually win the game.
As Dog Trainers we need to learn when to help, when to encourage, when to get out of their way, and when to leave the hell alone.
No one ever learned to stand on their own 4 feet by having their hand held. Handholding is a necessary step, but it will not get you to your end goal.