A while back, I wrote an article about a new adolescent male Malinois I brought home under precarious and less than ideal circumstances. (If you didn’t read it, check it out HERE.)
As usual, and these days as expected, the Internet Bullies came out in force, calling me everything from stupid, to moronic, to irritating, to annoying for getting myself into such a dicey situation.
Love you all too.
But I want to use that experience, and the so many like it to make a point.
Now, I’m going to say this once, and I am going to say it fast. And, I may include some choice language, but I think it adds to my point. And after I make my point, I’m going to leave it alone and go back to giving you stories about my experiences and training.
So pay attention if you want. Or, check out and pass judgement if you’d rather.
In dog training (and in life), shit happens.
Oftentimes, we know what ideal is. We know what we SHOULD be doing, and we know the results we are after. And oftentimes, many of us strive for that ideal: That flawless training session, those well timed exchanges, or that perfectly planned and executed lesson (or that seamless introduction with a new dog). But sometimes, all we can do is the best that we can do.
Thing is, sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, it isn’t a reflection of our ability (or lack thereof) to read and understand dogs, and it isn’t a testament to our experience or talent as a trainer. The simple fact is, some things are simply out of our control. Like I said before, sometimes shit happens.
I’m reminded of a meme I have seen floating around the Internet, that clearly illustrates the difference between what we intend to have happen in our training, and how things typically work out. A perfect picture of the idea that more often than not, things don’t go quite as planned.
Here’s why we love it. Dogs are living breathing beings who speak a completely different language than we do. They are dynamic, shifting based on circumstance and environment….
…….And sometimes shit happens……..
Sometimes, you opt to work at a quiet park and an off leash dog approaches, your session obliterated as you strive to keep everyone safe.
Sometimes, you think you are working your dog with minimal distractions, and all kinds of craziness comes out of nowhere (ask my friend Amy about the time a STRAY PET Bunny AND a cat crossed her path at a typically quiet public park within two minutes of one another).
Sometimes, you ask for too much, you don’t read your dog perfectly, or you push for JUST…ONE…MORE…REPETITION.
And sometimes, you are completely unprepared to pick up a dog, but you know you have to do it anyway.
Shit happens to all of us. And sometimes things don’t go as planned. But if you ask me, one of the biggest problems in the dog training industry is the fact that we don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to shine a big ol’ spotlight on the fact that things don’t always go exactly as we want. Instead, we post videos of flawless obedience…30 second clips of our dog looking like a star.
As trainers, we don’t like to publicize the process – the clumsy, nitty gritty exchanges where our dogs are trying to sort things out. Instead, we opt to show our cleanest sessions and our end results. The times where things play out exactly as they should. The times where we look like we really do know what we are doing.
And as owners and handlers, we only talk about our successes….never the struggles we’ve gone through to get there.
As a result, social media threads are packed full of perfection leaving dog owners and handlers to play the comparison game.
Ever looked back at your training sessions that were…..well…..not so great, and compared them to the perfection you see littering your newsfeed from all across the globe? Those 30 second clips of the things people WANT you to see? I know I have.
Sure it’s fun to share our brags. And sure it’s fun to show off when our dog acts like a star and gets their training lesson right. But where we get ourselves into trouble is when we start comparing our struggles to the good stuff people put out there. Playing the comparison game isn’t fair to our dogs, and it isn’t fair to ourselves.
And, more importantly, being overly critical, and attacking people for the mistakes they make, the mistakes that make them a better handler, and the struggles they go through to get to their end goal is simply not okay. (And don’t make the assumption that because you post something on your wall, or in a private training group, the subject of your criticism won’t see it, or be hurt by it. This is the Internet folks. People can see more than you think they can.)
I’m pushing for a culture change. I want to stop this cycle of making people feel bad when things don’t go as planned in their dog training (and in their lives). And I want to instead, shift to celebrating the mistakes as awesome learning opportunities that mean WE ARE GROWING and doing things that are HARD. And, most importantly, I want us all to be able to look back and laugh when SHIT HAPPENS…when there is no lesson to salvage, and you simply have to throw up your hands and own the fact that the only piece of positivity you can dig out of the mess is that it will make for a really awesome story somewhere down the road.
For those reasons, I will continue to share my many missteps with you. The times that things don’t work out right. The times things don’t play out according to plan.
So here ya go.
My name is Meagan Karnes, and I’m not perfect. In fact, here’s a picture of me falling on my a$$ at training when I made a rookie mistake and let the leash tether around my feet.
Shit happens in dog training. Own it. Learn from it. Or throw your hands up in the air and simply make a note to do better next time. But whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. No one benefits from self deprecation.
You can’t control everything. So quit trying. And don’t compare yourself to the stories of perfection that you see littering the Internet. I guarantee, those trainers have fallen on their asses a few times too.