It caused me to be frustrated with him and disappointed with myself. I am a trainer, he's 2 years old. He should listen better than this. Right away I started with negative self-talk and while I was happy with the obedience at the end of the clip I was stuck on the bad parts and not the good. I kept replaying in my mind everything that was wrong with the session. After sleeping on it and sharing the video with a friend, I was given a wake-up call. The friend pointed out how good the dogs were doing. I believe she even said “oh look at your dogs showing off” which I immediately started to discredit because wasn’t she watching the same video and seeing how bad Viking was being. I rewatched it after this and felt shame that I let my brain and negativity get the best of me. There ARE good moments, some even great moments, and it isn’t fair to my dogs to focus on the bad.
So, I sat down and asked myself why Viking wasn’t performing up to par and the thing is - it’s not his fault, it’s MINE. Between being extremely busy lately and a nasty case of “COVID blues” we have done very little training. Normally training for Viking includes day-to-day activities (as we like to practice real-life obedience in everything we do) as well as formal practice sessions and then weekly dog club. He has not been getting most of that this summer/fall due to a variety of reasons. But, the thing is, those “reasons” can become more like excuses and as responsible owners, it is up to us to find the line between excuse and legit reason, plus make the plan to fix it. Dogs are a commitment and there will be times things get crazy and you might slack off on your training and THIS IS OKAY as long as it is not a permanent thing, something I had to remind myself of. Skills get rusty, dogs test the rules, and things can start to be a mess. This is NOT a dog’s fault and it was not fair of me to be frustrated with him, just like you should not be frustrated with your dogs if you are experiencing this as well. It was also not fair to me or him to get so caught up with the negative. It is easy to see the things we consider lacking but we have to remember to look at the successes and celebrate those as well.
So I reflected on all I've shared here and decided to pull up my metaphorical pants and do better - for me and for Viking. I realized I DON'T have to be daunted by this and add back ALL the training elements immediately, while also trying to juggle the other commitments that took me away from it in the first place. That was a huge realization, let that sink in. I decided to start with the easiest, quick win: incorporating our training into our everyday routine (things like manners before meals). I will post an update in the near future to show you just how much a little work can go a LONG way in cleaning up those manners and skills. My next step will be to add formal practice sessions back in, hopefully on a weekly basis but I am giving myself permission to flex this as needed as long as I don’t let it completely be pushed aside again.