As I get ready to welcome another ‘official’ teaching season (when does it end, really?) this September, I look back at my students’ many successes and challenges from this past year. People from all walks of life walk through my doors with their beloved dogs and if I have learned anything from years of teaching it is not to pre-judge and just let the ‘give and take’ process of teaching, evaluating and guiding unfold. My classes see a lot of success and positive growth. I have to admit the occasional person has surprised, or worse, momentarily disappointed me in their efforts or lack thereof, but I remind myself that their personal story is just that, a personal story and their path of learning and journey with their dog is as important and valuable, but a different one. Doesn’t make it right or wrong. It is just theirs and I play the part I can in the process. I think back to the average middle of the road students; those that attend, achieve and leave…for the time being anyway 🙂 I receive countless phone calls or emails years later from past students who have had to say goodbye to the dog they trained with me and now return with a new barking, nipping bundle of joy. Lovely to see, but different times, different settings bring different challenges for those students as well. What comes to mind the most are the students that seem to have outstanding personal success and the most JOY from learning with their dogs. They are a varied group of people and I have learned NOT to try and predict this type of student or when it in fact will happen to them. Instead, I like the pleasant surprise when they start popping up in a class. These students are my ‘Aha! moment, light bulb switch on, OMG I can’t believe we did this‘ students. They are also my ‘What can we do next?’ students. What do they have in common that is the secret to their success? They are hard working, yes. They don’t mind sweating it out in a hot class in July, yes. They trundle through the snow to class in February, yes. They turn up prepared, yes. They do their homework when they can, yes. They all have ups and down in training, yes. But all these things apply to a lot of other students as well who are doing a good job. What then turns an average achieving handler/dog team into an ‘Aha!’ team?
AN OPEN MIND.
The more open the mind, the more we are ready to receive and process information. Nothing in the way. You don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ handler, nor do you have to have the ‘perfect’ dog, tools or time of life, but if a student is ready to receive and truly listen and process information, well, to steal a line from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, that just puts them on the ‘Hot Tamale Training Train’ .Woo HOO! I gotta say that A LOT of people and dogs boarded that particular train last year. How nice is that.
So, I’m looking forward to the variety of people and dogs walking through my doors this year and to guiding them on their learning journey. Here’s to keeping the mind open and pockets full (of treats) on the way to boarding the Hot Tamale Training Train!