Progress Not Perfection

Posted on 12/16/10 17 Comments

As many of you know I am pretty big into continuing education. I am constantly enrolled in some course trying to learn something. Atย this time of year I end up having more time to digest some of this great information.

One of the coaching groups I belong to has a mantra that I think is so appropriate for everyone training a dog that is ;

Progress not perfection.

It is too easy to try believe you are not accomplishing anything because you are not yet “brilliant.” Maybe you feel like you are just spinning your wheels and you will never move forward with anything! Or you look at your dog’s skill’s and compare them to a World Class agility dog and feel frustrated feeling you lack ability.

Try not to be too hard ย on yourself and rather than grade yourself against someone else’s performance take an account of where you were with your dog training 5 years ago. Have you progressed? I bet you have! Rather than getting frustrated because your puppy isn’t tugging in all environments take stock of all of the environments he DOES tug in and move forward from there.

Progress, not perfection. That should be scale you grade yourself on. With this mindset you will allow yourself the pat on the back you deserve for your efforts. Sometimes it is just that little bit of reinforcement that gives you the motivation to push forward for more results rather than giving up and retiring to the couch for re-runs of Seinfeld.

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. ~ Dr. Harriet Braiker

Today I am grateful to see how the lessons of life are mirrored for us in our dog training.


  1. Debra says:
    Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:12pm

    My problem… I compete against myself.


  2. Jeanne says:
    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 5:59pm

    Are there any other friends of Bill W. who recognized the phrase “progress not perfection”? This was originally written in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and is familiar to many of us in 12 step groups.


  3. Lysa says:
    Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 2:09pm

    I needed to read that today. Thanks for helping us keep perspective.


  4. mtrebino says:
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 5:57pm

    As usual your timing is impeccable..I have been struggling with my OES puppy…she is just 10 months …she reminds me of my oes Bear..I learned sooo much from him but what a hill to climb..I thought this next puppy would be easy…not..but I have some miles and the nice thing is most of the time I do know how to work thru problems albeit I don’t always follow my instint and knowledge.. come so far and yet so far to go….margie


  5. Ninette says:
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 2:10pm

    Thanks for these inspiring and motivating words of wisdom ..


  6. Jen at Dog House Training says:
    Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 11:41am

    Thanks for this post. This is an important point to remember for humans as well as dogs!


  7. Ali Barnett says:
    Monday, December 20, 2010 at 10:03pm

    Love this post – thanks for sharing!

    Susan, could you please clarify when the Recallers membership runs out?

    Thanks from sunny & hot NZ ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Deb D says:
    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 9:59am

    This was something I needed to read. Although my dogs never disappoint me I do find myself disappointed and frustrated with myself that I don’t catch on quicker. I AM a better dog trainer than I was a year ago though – I know that and I’m way more fun for my dogs because I’m getting better at embracing my own holes.


  9. Sara Favinha says:
    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 7:38am

    Susan, this post was an amazing note for me. Because of my perfectionist personality, sometimes it can blow my plans. I have to celebrate every little step in the right direction. Thank you!


  10. Trudie says:
    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 4:54pm

    Online communication has got to be the epitome of progress! I’m so glad I took both Susan’s brilliant recallers course and the Garrett-Cullen pre-competition routines course. I consider these as “presents” to myself, for my efforts! I felt each course was “tailored” for me, even though there were far more experienced people on each course. The online webinars and coaching calls aren’t just good – they are the best.


    • karen says:
      Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 9:10pm

      I agree Susans course was great and Johns. Do you know when we will be getting the videos of the recallers course sent out if we are brilliant level?


  11. Jaime says:
    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 2:31pm

    Incredibly timely, valuable advice. I was just dissecting these emotions with my mother (who clicker trains her horses) this morning. I’m the one comparing my hard working, motivated, lovely starter dog to the dogs of world team members, meanwhile my mom expressed experiencing that exact same ‘spinning your wheels’ futility.

    Thank you, thank you, your words are just what we needed to keep moving forward! I will be sharing this!


  12. Karin Roelofsma says:
    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 7:54am

    thanks Susan for sharing this….


  13. Katie Oilschlager says:
    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 12:43am

    Susan this a great post! Thanks for sharing.


  14. Amy says:
    Friday, December 17, 2010 at 12:19am

    Perfect timing! Unfortunately I have been feeling a bit of a failure lately, instead of embracing how much I really have accomplished with my Novice A dog – of a less common breed, no less (a Malamute). It’s hard to remember how far we’ve come, but we really should try.


    • Karen M says:
      Friday, December 17, 2010 at 2:52am

      Can relate to you, Emily. Was also feeling a bit of a failure myself recently. But put things into perspective and realised how far my young boy has come over the past 2 years too.


  15. Kelly says:
    Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 9:11pm

    Once again brilliant and timely insite. outcome focus not goal focus. Yes it is good to have aspirations and people to look up to but you can not measure yourself against them. With all of the information that has been comming from you and John Cullen I am really looking forward to my first match this weekend (UKI on the East Coast). I haven’t shown in 4 years and I will be bringing out a young dog (not yet 2). This is the first time I am looking forward to the mistakes so I can ‘see’ where my holes may be ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am calm and confident in my plan and I have yet to sucumb to the voices that are usually in my head of what others might say about our debut. Today I am thankfull for your and John’s wisdom and willingness to share it with others.


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