The power in observation
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” – Albert Einstein
When you are training a dog with a coach supervising, there are so many distractions around you. You are trying to observe what your dog is doing. You are trying to remember what your coach told you. You are trying to not make a fool of yourself in front of the people watching you. You are worried if your buttcrack is showing when you bend over to reward your dog. This is a high stress, high distraction environment and this isn’t advantageous for learning. .
Yet even though the scenario described above is the best time to learn as you have your coaches undivided attention, it is not the easiest way. It is extremely hard to focus on the guidance given to you, and often even harder to accept the flaws that you make. Have you ever heard your own voice being played over a speaker or on a home video and thought, “I didn’t sound like that!” That is because it is impossible for you to perceive what was happening from any other viewpoint than your own.
Just like hearing yourself on a recording, having someone videotape your training or doing it in front of a mirror is a very effective way of spotting your own flaws, but this isn’t always possible. Dog sports are very demanding on the canine and handler. Lucky for us handlers, our dog understand every reward and correction if timed properly. Unfortunately for coaches, people live on a different time scale. Your coach will tell you the moment that you did something wrong, but it probably won’t register fully until much, much later, if at all. However, when you see another human make the same mistake, and that mistake pointed out, it is very easy and clear for us to make sense of it.
Don’t just sit and chat about today’s gossip when other dogs are working. Observe and discuss what you hear from the coach. Learn from it, and apply it to your own training. Too often during a training session or seminar, people (myself included) tend to zone out when other people and their dogs are working. It is easy to think,“I am not working right now, and this dog has different problems than mine, why do I need to watch?” I have never seen a perfect handler, and although close, have yet to see a perfect dog. You will see numerous and helpful tips from your coach on each and every team that will be able to help you with your goals. If you don’t see any tips for you, still watch! You might be able to give some helpful points to the team after the session!
Tyler Van Norman