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What Holds You Back

Posted on 10/28/10 137 Comments

Next week I am starting a Newsletter series on Being a Good Student. The series is based on a short article I wrote in a magazine many years ago. Now I don’t pretend to be the worlds authority on educating, but I have taught dog training to people since 1988 and I am pretty observant so I feel I have some good ideas to share on this topic.

I love to challenge my students. Sometimes I put “pressure” on them just for the opportunity to give them a chance to see how well they respond to pressure. Like in this photo of one of my students. During a seminar I asked her to pose for a picture for me. Now she only tried this balancing board for the first time only a day or two earlier so to put pressure on someone while they are fairly new at something may seem unfair but it actually is helpful. I was patient until she had success (which she did pretty quickly because she is a cool cucumber). But by adding “pressure” it helps you to learn how you react in pressure situations. Laying down a great foundation for future “pressure” events.

I decided to write this series not only for all of my newsletter subscribers but for myself as well. I am a perpetual student. I love to learn so am constantly signing up for seminars or on line courses of my own including but not exclusive to the subject of dog training.  Some of the topics I study are unbelieveably frustrating to me because I am such a neophyte and the learning curve is so steep. Being the best student I can will help me maximize my learning opportunities.

By studying the characteristics of people I feel have made massive improvements while in my classes or courses I am helping myself to be a better student while I am learning.

I would love to get feedback from all of you. What do you think makes you a great student and what do you think holds others back from learning. Would love to include some of your ideas in my series (especially if you are an education expert).  As I said I am publishing this series only on my newsletter so if you are not a member sign up by November 1st–that is when the first article goes out. You can sign up both here on the blog or at my website at www.clickerdogs.com

Today I am grateful  for that I am going home after being away from John and the dogs for 8 days.


  1. Shirley Holmes says:
    Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 4:20am

    Hi, Not sure if I have missed out on too much.

    I would love to join these discussions and I can relate to most of the conversation. Dog training seems to be just the same around the world?



  2. lahni says:
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:25pm

    My newest boy is an Aussi and boy is he smart and willing to work he does better contacts and every bit as good weaves as my masters level Lakeland terrier and way better weaves than my shih tzu I know a great deal of the difference is the breed He loves me and loves to work but an equally large part is due to the system and my coaches and instructors. A big Thank you to Kim Collins with whom I do outreach and big kids/dog camp, fun, fun. Susan with whom I do video and on line training and of course LOH Lynda Orton Hill who has been an instructor at Kim’s camp for the last two years (Great camp)and last but not least two members of my group who have been great mentors Paula Collins and Jane Jeffers As well we are really fortunate to have a very supporive group. LOH noticed how supportive the Calgary Group was with each other. There are clicky groups here too E.G. many of us who do the system are not invited to attend another groups seminar with LOH due to intergroup dynamics but we try to rise abvove it and do our best with our training and each other. Take the high road the air is fresher and cleaner Lahni


    • gene says:
      Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:53pm

      @lahni….well said! I love your attitude, “Take the high road the air is fresher and cleaner!”

      And we are often rewarded for it, even when we think things are not going the way we want…your new Aussie, for example….better than previous dogs!

      We can all learn from our mistakes, even if we do not recognize them as being “mistakes”….no matter how pure our own intentions, things we say and do are often filtered through problem areas of the reciever and things can get garbled.

      As they say, “you can’t go back and change the ending, but you can change and have a new and better beginning!”

      Say…wasn’t Susan going to do a “better instructor” series similiar to her better student series? Did I miss it?


  3. Judy Caughlin says:
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:05pm

    @Jessica Rose Congratulations! You are going to have some fun. If you don’t already have it, I suggest you get Susan’s Shaping Success. It’s worth the read and then will become your reference book.


    • JessicaRose says:
      Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:45pm

      @Judy: I just got the book bundle, and will be getting the other that you mentioned.. I am diving in “feet first”.. so excited to try so many different things.. it’s the perfect piece for my puzzle in this crazy life that I have.. Being focused will help me in every way, shape, and form.. I feel like a kid at Christmas right now! 😀


      • Barb says:
        Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 3:37pm

        Your name grabbed my attention, although I am sure you are not my niece, Jessica Rose, great name but I am sure unrelated. Haven’t ordered anything yet but am thinking on the agility one!

  4. JessicaRose says:
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 7:03am

    Gene: It sounds like your instructor has issue with smaller dogs and maybe has a preference to BC.. or even simply doesn’t like anyone having a different opinion. When I was in my early 20’s I went to a private collage for court reporting and because it was a “Lutheran” college, I had to take a religion class in order to get my BA. (I never really understood this..) Anyways, my instructor and I would butt heads ALL the time (i’m agnostic) and it seemed like he would “pick on me” because I didn’t have the same beliefs that he had. I was SO happy when this class was finally over and done with… but the bad taste of his “God” complex (pun intended) stayed in my mouth for a very long time. I wished I had just simply dropped the class and gone on with someone else’s religion class.. It seems with some instructors you just can’t win. My teacher favored his beliefs over mine, so therefore “I” was always wrong.. I felt very provoked. It’s almost like your instructor was “baiting” you..or talking down to you to make him/her feel superior.. I hope that my first class instructor is not like this person, because I too, am new to agility. You and your dog are much better off leaving the class.. lesson learned! Good luck in finding a better one..I’m sure you’ll do just great! 😀


    • Judy Caughlin says:
      Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 10:29am

      @Jessica Rose, And good luck with your first class and agility dog! You are going to LOVE it.

      For what it’s worth, if I can afford it, I prefer private lessons over classes. It seems to me that socialization is what we get in a class. But in learning the behaviors, particularly in the beginning, I’ve found there are less distractions for me and my dog in a one on one situation.


      • JessicaRose says:
        Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 11:24am

        Judy: I was going to wait for a new dog, but an opportunity came up that I just could not pass up! I get to meet him tomorrow! He is an Aussie, just under a year with AKC and testing.. The breeder is disbanding to move to another state..He’s just gorgeous! Excited, excited!! 😀

  5. Judy Caughlin says:
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 6:36am

    I totally dislike “clicky”, particularly where my dogs are involved. Poor things, we humans get distraught, pulling them along, and they feel the emotion.

    I’d forget what’s done and move on. I’d come up with a plan to train my dog and ENJOY being with her and agility. No where else can you do something you love with someone that never judges and always gives unconditional love!


  6. gene says:
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:42am

    Yes, and I appreciate you ladies supporting me in this becaue I have to admit, I am very upset. our club is “clicky” anyway adn having a popular individual take a different view of what happened, means I will not be welcome in this club, in future classes, or probably not spoken to at trials should I attend any. Its more than just a class. When I tried to clarify, I was brushd off with this note: “Gene, I have not seen any aggression. I have however heard that you don’t want loose dogs coming towards your dog. I can understand your point of view. There will be puppies loose again. Clearly I can not make you happy, therefore I am offering a full refund and the chance to take from classes where you have not had problems. The other folks, like you, have the right to learn as well. Some classes aren’t for every person. I am not kicking you to the curb. I wish you nothing but the best but I don’t think I can offer you an environment where you will feel safe enough. You will be fine wherever you go. I, however, must end the conversation regarding this class. I have worked all day, taken a class myself, helped a friend and now am off to dinner and bed. I understand that all classes are not for all students.” now I feel like a whiney petulent child on top of everything else! too bad I have a masters degree in organizational effectiveness cuz it helps me see the future for me having fun at local trials…and it ain’t good. Now I feel stupid for speaking up. I never dreamed it would go this far. She obviouly thinks that she has a handle on things, that dogs only occassionally get loose, and somehow it is an unreasonable thing for me not to want “loose dogs coming up to my dog.” I don’t know what happened but I feel I have fallen down the rabbit hole on this one.


  7. lahni says:
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 4:40pm

    well at least you were offered a refund but what a cop out on the behafl of the instructor. You said she followed Susan’s training methods NOT as susan does expect controll and dogs are kenneled in between turns lahni


  8. gene says:
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 4:28pm

    Thanks to you all for your comments. When I read them, I thought…oh no! I’m going to have to quit this class and I was waivering–as I said my dog was doing great….But now I don’t have to worry. Having expressed my concern about the impact of allowing the BC to jump on my dog, here is what I got from my instructor, “I am very sorry that you feel so uncomfortable in class.

    and, yes, you are correct.. there will be probably be many more incidences in the future with regards to young dogs off leash running to sniff, etc. in Agility I Class. This may include visiting. [my comment: jumping on a dog and wettin her shoulder and neck and making her scream is not visiting. I don’t mind visiting.]

    In light of all the information you have provided, it is probably best for [our club–for which I was a founding board member, for which I found the venue for our trials, etc.] to offer you a refund for the current session and you can either wait until there is an intermediate level class for inexperienced handlers with dogs that have more experience or take Gabby and go to [the other clubs that are about an hour and a half way] where you have witnessed classes with less problems. As I know you know, it is extremely difficult to work a ton of control in an open field with “pet” dogs as they learn control, etc. with their owners. Part of agility I is learning control off leash with big distractions and running.

    I truly appreciate all the information you have given me but honestly see no way in which I will be able to make you happy at this time in the level class you and [your dog] are attending. I appreciate all the effort you’ve put into class and wish I could offer you more at this time. I am definitely VERY leary of having anyone in one of my classes with a low comfort level. I feel, as an instructor it is my job to make every team as comfortable as possible. I would truly hate to see continued instances impact you and [your dog’s] future together in other venues!

    I hope you find this solution satisfactory. It is the only one I can come up with where we are able to ensure safety all around. I will be happy to issue a refund check, please just note where you would like me to send it to.

    Thanks again for your in depth analysis of the class dynamics. I appreciate the time you took to send it to me.”

    So I guess my instructor made up my mind for me. Thanks to you guys for helping me–in advance–come up wiht the same solution. What a shame the club does not have any “entrance requirements” for dogs they accept into class so that dogs who are minding their own business will not get a wet neck and withers and the owner feel like she did something wrong.

    I hope if any instructors are out there, they are hearing this and they will take a renewed effort in extra training for the dogs who cause trouble vs. kicking out the ones who don’t.

    I will say this in closing…I am a new agility student, but not a new dog trainer. I am also an instructor. My first competiton dog ranked nationally in Agility (my husband handled her), obedience and rally at all levels (I handled her). My current dog, less than 3 years old is titled in Rally and hunting and pinned all three times in Rally at a very large 5 day regional show with lots of competition in the B class. She got perfect scores in her hunt test. She is doing GREAT in Alitity so far and there is no reason to expect that she won’t be good at that, as well (assuming she isn’t soured by being jumped on).

    am I the only one who thinks that this is NOT a satisfactory answer? All I wanted was for the other dog to be better controlled.


    • Judy Caughlin says:
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 9:40pm

      Odd that your instructor took this attitude, but after her comments on previous incidents, to be expected.

      You will be better off in the long run. The idea that she “follows Susan Garrett’s methods” is a myth. Good luck and happy training.


  9. lahni says:
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 3:09pm

    I started this before and it disapeared so if another comment similar shows up from me that is why I had a beautiful lakeland with awsome 2by 2 weaves who developed temperment issues after he was attacked/bounced on by a big black dog. I recognise the temperment issues were latent but came out with a vengence when the boisterous black lab mix screamed and reared and struggled sometimes successfully to get to him. Bert decided the best defence was a good offence and bit the black boy in the nethers. We were excused from the class and when I aske d why the black boy was not required to be kept under controll was told it is a training issue. E.G. I should have taught my small terrier to ignore the black boy. Some times instructors have blinders on. I suggest you bring a kennel and put your dog in it when it is not his/her turn safer and teaches the dog to relax between turns. I also suggest you ask that the other dog be in a kennel when it is your turn. I had to re home my Bert as he generaliosed the dog aggression to all dogs except his mother. He is in an only dog home in a area where there are no off leash areas and is doing well. I still grieve the potential but he is better off lahni


  10. Judy Caughlin says:
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 5:11am

    IMHO, taking the class may be important, but what your dog is learning is more important. Being attacked is not what you want your dog to expect while doing agility. You want a confident dog, loving agility and totally focused on the task at hand.

    The class environment you are experiencing is not one I would tolerate. Before quitting the class, perhaps crating your dog with you protecting your her from the offender might work, as long as this doesn’t make your dog even more apprehensive.

    Any dog that attacks my dog has me to go through first. As I run small dogs, it’s really a matter of life or death.
    But really, even if there isn’t a size difference, it’s something that has no place in training/trialing.


    • gene says:
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 12:27pm

      Thanks Judy. You are right, dogs do associate one thing with another and I had forgotten that being jumped on may be the reason my dog is not really enjoying agility. She does as I ask, the best in class IMHO due to using Susan’s games before we got to class. We are in a foundations class and I was thinking she might be more enthusiastic when we start on putting more than two obsticles together…but you could be right. So far, she has not really been attacked, but literally “jumped on” and the last two times, her neck was wet from being grabbed. The offending dog ran out of the training area and into a grassy area near the training area to jump on my dog while i was pottying her. My dog was off leash (but was right next to me, starting to squat). When I saw the dog running at us, I waved my leash (one of those soft slip collar/leash combos) at the dog (who deftly dodged it) and still wet my dog’s neck. My dog screamed. I was yelled at by the instructor “come to class in time to potty your dog first” and “put your dog on a leash and don’t let her be in the line of sight of a hearding dog” and “no one tries to hit a dog in my class with a leash or you will be asked ot leave.” When I told her this offended me, she explained that she has been workign for three years to get her dog not to be afraid of people for a similar situation. She is a very knowlegable instuctor on agility, quite accomplished, and I like that she is a devotee of Susan’s too, so we share a common bond in foundation skills….but I think she has a blind side when it comes to herding dogs and tends to excuse “naughty behavior”. I have a hunting dog. there are game birds in cages right next to the agility field. I worked very hard with my dog the first few classes to get her to “appear to ignore” the game birds, so why is it okay for my dog to be a sheep to a herding dog? I agree with leash laws in class, but my dog stays with me on or off leash, the offending dog is on a leash, but it is trailing her as she runs across the field to jump on my dog or others. I want to be a good student, but I fear that I am now worried and so that will make my dog worried and that will just compound the problem.


      • Judy Caughlin says:
        Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 2:23pm

        Glad to hear that these aren’t “attacks” but still there is no excuse for a dog to repeatedly ignore the handler and chose to self-reward by “jumping” another dog. The “herding dog” excuses made by your instructor are just that “excuses”. One of the primary cornerstones of the Say Yes program is that all rewards come from the handler. That means that one must control the environment of the dog such that they cannot self-reward.

        IMHO, this dog is not ready to be worked “off leash” in your class situation. How many times do you suppose Susan Garrett has had her “herding” dogs in a situation where they can wantonly self-reward. That is what the dog is doing.

        Good job working the “bird” distraction.

  11. gene says:
    Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:35am

    I’m having a problem as a student and I wonder if some of the experienced “students” and instuctors can help. The problem is dogs in our class who are not obedient, or in my opinion not ready for the class. Example: dog runs through tunnel, trailing leash, comes out tunnel and immediately goes and jumps on another dog. Same dog takes a jump, trailing leash, then runs across the field and jumps on a dog. My dog is often the “jumpee” and it sure is hard to teach a dog to focus on mama and what mama wants done when a dog will come up from behind and jump on my dog’s back. It is herding dog, so my dog often has wet withers after such an encounter. I have suggested some books to the owner of the dog (not read), I have spoken to the instructor, but I really want to continue the class but not at the risk of my dog. So far, wet withers and “screaming” are all my dog has done. the offening dog gets bolder every class. both are bitches (and so am I becoming one now). suggestions? (ps there are four dogs in the class and TWO of them are out of control off leash, or hard to grab after the jump, tunnel etc. One of the two has an experienced handler who is trying, the other (the herding dog) owner doesn’t have a clue about how allowing this dog to to rehearse naughty behaviors will eventually hurt HIS dog when it comes across an Alpha OR when his dog runs from the agility ring to jump on a dog some day. Were I instructor, I would not let this go on. Since our instructor IS aware and DOES let it go on, how can I handle it to give my dog confidence (I’ve tried “incoming” when I see the dog advancing, but I dont always see the dog).


  12. Michele Fry says:
    Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 11:47am

    I taught Montessori children for 27 years, and many adults in pottery, watercolor and computer classes. I’ve taught myself many difficult things, like how to build websites, knit, throw on a potters wheel, etc. and it’s like a jig saw puzzle. The pieces come together slowly. The one thing I notice that makes a human or canine student easy to teach is if they are “biddable”. Willing to trust. Willing to do what you say. Not afraid of “getting it wrong”. Not even expecting to get it right at first.

    I point out to all my students that “If you knew how to do this already, you wouldn’t be here, so don’t expect a flawless performance from yourself. I don’t expect that of you.” It takes lots and lots of practice to even begin to get a “feel” for things (My visualization is the ballet student “at the bar” for hours on end). Do we practice the footwork of our handling maneuvers for hours on end??????

    I had a great philosophy teacher who told me “Go to class to ingest. Go home and digest what you ingested.” In other words, don’t expect every piece you hear in class to fit into your preconceived notions, or to fit all together into a comprehensive system the instant each idea is comunicated. Give the teacher a chance to unfold their vision. Be confident that you can explore something new and different for a few hours or days, and still return to your solid base later.

    I suspect poor students don’t have a solid or wide enough base to venture forth from, so they are horribly afraid to leave it. Prejudice is born of fear. They are uncomfortable with being confused. They raise their hand all the time, interrupt a lot, chatter, pout, cause mayhem, become dissatisfied with the teaching, or quit, because during class they are trying to hang on to what they already know, to file each and every piece of new data they hear into their established filing system, and if it doesn’t fit immediately, it starts cluttering up their desktop. While attempting to clear up this mess during class, they miss the next bit, and the next, and the next.

    My advice to all students: be comfortable with being confused. Enjoy the clutter. Or, establish a mental “For Later Processing” file, and stuff every confusing thing into it. You will find when you go back later and review all the confusing items, half of them aren’t confusing any more and can be filed into one of your existing mental files. Plus, you will be able to create new files with new labels, expanding your filing system and your knowledge in rapid fashion, and getting your money’s worth out of each class.

    I have had so much success with this method myself after so many years struggling to learn and teach difficult things, I have come to trust the process intuitively, and along with reciting my daily mantra: “Patience, Persistence, and Prayer” (the 3 P’s), everyone and everything has become my teacher.


    • Karen M says:
      Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 7:35am

      What a beautiful philosophy. I’m forever grateful to every instructor I’ve had, be they good or bad. Always something to learn, whether to do or discard.


  13. Christine says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 1:36am

    Beeing a good student:
    open, reflective, giving feedback, thinking on your own, patient,trying things carfully out, giving things time, sharing ideas, participating in discussions, asking questions,…


  14. Ann says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 7:16pm

    I’m so glad you’re doing this — the first one on fear of failure is great — certainly an issue for me, and probably for many people. My dog and I had our best runs ever recently at a trial where I didn’t know anyone and could just concentrate. Learning in class is certainly easier when ego is left at the door and I bring my sense of humor with me!


  15. lahni says:
    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 12:53pm

    Also I really appreciate and need positive feed back. It is really helpful to hear an “atta girl” and to get really specific feedback for improvement from the instructor. I had one instructor who used to struggle to find a positive about my terriers and I would get a giggle at what she would finaly be able to say they did well ,but go home vowing to do the home work. As well having good notes or the videos is really helpful for me. Lahni


  16. Bobbie Bhambree says:
    Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 1:28pm

    Letting go of the ego is huge. If you can check your ego at the door when walking into a learning situation, you will walk out with so much more. That’s what I learned over the past three years as a Say Yes! student.

    It’s not about the personal, but rather the present. What can be done in that moment to change the behavior of the dogs? That ability has nothing to do with the individual. Students that show significant improvement over shorter periods of time have the ability to do that. They can be pushed out of there comfort zone and be there with an open mind. It’s hard, but totally worth it.


  17. Angela M says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 5:21pm

    Interesting topic. I don’t think of my students as good students or bad students…as an educator I make it my job to figure out how to get the information across to the student so they can flourish. That means understanding their learning style, figuring out their biases and stumbling blocks and going from there. Now I love it when a student asks a question, because it means we are communicating. Yes it is easier just to preach the gospel, but to truly teach requires a two way flow of information.

    I used to get a defensive with students if they asked a question I couldn’t answer, but now I realize, that is all part of the process…and as a teacher I can’t know everything lol! “good question” I say, “can I get back to you on that ?” 🙂


  18. lahni says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 4:49pm

    I loved this first blog about being a good student. I have been an adult educator myself and found the “yah buts”” and I tried it and it didn’t work” very frustrating. However, I do really get embarased when we, either my dog or I make mistakes so this is really a light bulb moment for me. Thank you. I also would love to acknowledge three other people who help a lot Kim,Jane and Paula and most of all the system. I also am a nurse (ret) and nurses like SOP’s and to me the system is like having a whole bunch of sensible SOP’s (standard Operating procedures. Lahni


  19. Betsy Metcalf says:
    Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 2:05am

    Does the newsletter come seperate? I did get a questionair but not an article. I am looking forward to this discussion.


    • kay acres says:
      Friday, November 5, 2010 at 12:32am

      Betsy helped me improve my agility skills, and my dogs are thankful and so am I. I am not surprised that she is interested in the topic, “What Makes a Good Student”. I am sure she has an opinion, but I don’t know what it is. Betsy never made me feel like a bad student.

      I have an opinion about what makes a good student because I run a Federal Title I program at an Elementary school for students who score in the bottom quartile in reading and/or math. Our school has won three awards for academic growth by students in the bottom 25th percentile in the six years that I have worked in this position. The awards placed our school in the top 95th percentile in Washington State for academic growth for students in the bottom quartile. Most of our struggling students made progress and learned to read. Is that success? Were they good students?

      When I was studying for my Masters in Education I read somewhere that “Mass practice is as good as selective practice.” The author stated that if you have had a hard tiring day and then you practiced your sport, and did not do a good job, you would learn just as much as if you had performed beautifully. I think about that when I am a student.


  20. Johanna Ammentorp says:
    Monday, November 1, 2010 at 1:35pm

    I think a good student doesn’t come up with all kinds of reasons why what you are suggesting won’t work before looking at ways that it might. That is one thing that I have found while teaching my manners classes. People who try, usually have success, and if it doesn’t work, then we know that and can go on to something else.

    However, I think that some people feel very inhibited in class and have a hard time doing anything in front of other people. I feel bad for those students because I used to be like that. Why? Because I have had teachers through the years put me down in front of fellow students. Not all teachers are good, and not all have empathy. But, those teachers also taught me alot….how not to be like them and how to have patience with people.


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