The Question of Education

Posted on 12/02/10 27 Comments

This is going to be a random collection of thoughts about Education.  My series in my newsletter entitle “The Good Student” has, a bit like, Ruff Love, gotten some misinterpretations that I want to clear up.

I do not condone abusive teachers or instructors that tell people to do things “just because I am the professional.” Yes there are many instructors that step over the boundaries. I believe teaching is much like dog training. If that is true then if:

“Your dogs are a reflection of your ability to train.”

Then likewise I believe that

“Your students are a reflection of your ability to teach.”

Just as we should be learning from our dogs as we train them we as instructors should also be learning from our students. I will follow up my “Good Student” series with what I believe is a “Good Instructor” as well. It should be a journey. I know I for one am not the same teacher I was ten years ago and I hope in ten years time I will still be learning and finding new ways to help my students bring out the best in their dogs.

If you have an instructor whose style is to never build you up, to continue to tear you down and if they are happy to publicly ridicule you, then I would have to agree even a student with the thickest skin would not be able to tolerate it. Nor would I think you will find a way to do your absolute best in such an environment. Your mental game in particular would suffer massively under the constant tutelage of such a coach

However, my suggestion is that in order to grow you must allow yourself to fail, to open yourself to learning through the discovery of your limitations. I did not suggest anyone will grow under the tutelage of abusive. But I am suggesting if you get “your feelings hurt” it could be that you are misinterpreting a message or the delivery as abusive.

The truth is in my own teaching many students only hear the challenges I put forth and close their ears to any praise I give. Leaving my sessions thinking “she is too tough to learn from.” Be certain you are not miss judging your coach but also never be afraid to have a private conversation with such a coach and explain your thoughts and feelings before you walk away from the opportunities to learn.



First from yesterday’s blog a question came up; should you question your instructor’s philosophy? My answer is absolutely!

You should always be able to question your instructor about why they think a piece of their training is important. Take their reasons, go home and chew it over and decide if it sits with your philosophy of how you want to live with your dog. If it doesn’t ask her if she minds you approaching the issue your way.
Although I am very strong in my belief of what works I am completely open to looking at new ideas. However in issues of philosophies people are pretty convicted. For example if someone came to my class and wanted to start punishing dropped bars, I would do my best (and I am pretty convincing) to show them the downside and the historical evidence of the fallout of such a practice.
However if someone came to my class and chose not to give their dog a time out for breaking a start line or leaving a contact early I would allow them to carry on, if that was something they firmly believed would work. Do you see the difference? Personally I don’t think either situation would be effective dog training. I would try to help my student see why I believed the way I do. But I would be more inclined to allow the “non punishment” experimentation in dog training to go on then the one which is going to exact punishment I feel will be subjective in its application. Most philosophies develop from experiences and challenges to that experience. Any instructor should be able to articulate why they feel theirs is important.
I leave you with this awesome video that Daisy Peel recently posted to her blog. I think the question of education should be continued. I have some more thoughts I will share with you later.

Today I am grateful that all of you are willing to sign your name to your own feelings on education.


  1. Debra says:
    Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 8:09pm

    Good post,but disagree with the video… We had a fantastic education system; the problem is the family structure is broken, no one is paying attention to their children… they give them computers, IPODS, etc. to keep them entertained. Kids are not benefiting from both a mother and father who loves and cares for them…. I could go on, but the heart of the problem was not addressed…


    • Jenny Yasi says:
      Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 3:46pm

      You’re right Deborah, the educational system is just a small part of the places where people are learning.

      Susan, in your article at the head of this, you have those two great examples of where you would let someone carry on, erring on the side of reinforcement, but probably NOT let them carry on with punishment.

      I have been in a class where the student physically punishes a dog, so that I couldn’t help but gasp, and the teacher maintained self control and without judgemental gasping managed to give him information that might stop that from happening in the future. I was impressed, because I don’t think in that moment I was primed to be so cool and collected. I have also been a student in a class where the teacher reamed me out for reinforcing my dog for doing “nothing.” What looked like “nothing” to the instructor was actually my fearful reactive dog standing bravely without reacting while a group of unfamiliar dogs was staring at her and an unfamiliar instructor was yelling at me!

      She asked me “What are you reinforcing her for?” and I said, “For standing here!” Which for most dogs, granted isn’t much, but for Tigerlily at that particular stage in her development was HUGE. Of course the instructor didn’t know that, how could she, Tigerlily was doing such a GREAT (unusually great!!) job at standing there and not turning into a blob!

      And what I think is that sometimes instructors really just don’t know what is going on, because different dogs are different, and so of course the trainer’s skills are reflected differently in different dogs. And what works on some dogs doesn’t work on others. What you can expect from some, you really CELEBRATE from others. I had another teacher (actually instructor’s assistant) who (perhaps understandably) shrieked with enthusiasm as Tigerlily went cheerfully across the fulcrum of the teeter. But two shrieks and that was it, Tigerlily hated that teeter (she was fine in my yard) for the rest of that season. That wasn’t a reflection of MY skill as a trainer. My dog’s natural temperament or physical mental emotional ability isn’t a reflection of my skills, it’s just what I have to work with.

      So I can’t agree that the dog is a reflection of my ability to train, UNLESS you really have the full reflection! You’d have to know where we started, to see how her behavior has evolved. The dog’s behavior is also a reflection of the dog’s stage of development, a reflection of the dog’s natural temperament. Different trainers have different things to work on/with, and some people get to completely skip over the issues that took up months and years of my training time!! So, I think it’s a cop out not to acknowledge that. My dog is a reflection of my ability to choose I guess. But I love my dogs and I’m not just choosing for agility prospect, I also live with my dogs on a boat, and in that context, my Tigerlily is a champion.


  2. Jean says:
    Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 12:38am

    Well after age 40 I got my pilots license,learned to ski from bunny slops to black diamond,bowled pro-am,earned another degree and stumbled upon Dog Agility to name a few interests I have pursued. By not being afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone my life has been much richer.

    I wish I could remember where I read it but my mantra is “be like a child” when learning something new.

    As adults we have to let go of the idea that we have to already know and be good at everything.

    Anyone can put out a shingle and be an agility instructor so trust your instincts and run from abuse to you or your dog.


  3. Alison says:
    Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 12:12am

    Thanks so much for sharing this video. It was brilliant! I work for a place that is currently involved in coming up with a new National curriculum for Australian schoolkids, so have found this very interesting. I love the idea that someone is questioning the current education paradigm and that we should be looking at ways to bring out the best in students.


    • Alison says:
      Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 5:16pm

      Oh and the other thing I loved about the video is the way it was presented. That is – appealing to my visual senses which I learn best from. If it was just a lecture, I don’t think I would’ve stayed as interested?


  4. Sydney says:
    Monday, December 6, 2010 at 11:15pm

    There is no way to post a comment under the eBook. They are both FANTASTIC! A first class piece of work. Wonderful to add to my collection of Susan Garrett, Susan Salo and Greg Derrett things. Oh, and now John Cullen.

    Susan, I have attended your seminars/workshops for 10 years. I have always thought you fair and have often marveled at your patience with some of the attendees. I go to learn and would be disappointed to come away without some guidance from you on my handling. Those words are the ones I often remember best when I work an exercise!

    Congratulations on your success at the Invitational. I can’t wait to see your videos! They would be great for practicing visualization! Please post them.


  5. Paolo says:
    Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 11:22am

    Brilliant post! The video was mindbogglingly accurate… I watched it three times over to really appreciate the profundity of it all!

    From that, I started browsing around for any other videos by the same people and stumbled across one discussing motivation and drive. What drives us to perform? How do we motivate people in the modern society? The old paradigms of “promise of more money will increase performance” are rightly brought into question.

    So, while watching this video (you can find it on ) I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these lessons we can take home for dog training. Or, even better, how much of our understanding of motivation in dog training could we bring over into the “human world.” I’m sure that would make an excellent topic for discussion.


    • Karen M says:
      Monday, December 6, 2010 at 7:44am

      $$$s aren’t everything as a reward for humans. Makes us search deeper for the true rewards for our canine companions.


  6. Shelley says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 11:39pm

    Susan thankyou for the e books they are both fantastic, I can’t post a comment under them so sorry for posting here. Looking forward to the next course!!!


  7. Casey says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 11:22am

    Loved the course. Will be reviewing the games again soon, w/my pups.

    I am concluding that the 2 coaching calls that have not been posted are not going to be? Did the recording not work or no time to edit? Since they were part of the initial package, and we promised to be able to watch at a later date, will we have complimentary access to the coaching calls when you offer this course again in the spring?

    Thanks again for the great course. I learned much from the 2 coaching calls I did watch and just would like to see what I missed.


    • Lisa says:
      Friday, December 3, 2010 at 12:33pm

      I was wondering the same thing. I only got to listen to the one that was a last part of the recorded call. I didn’t have the time to listen in on any of the coaching calls. I loved the course and I’m taking the mental one too ( :


  8. Jenny Yasi says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 11:14am

    Great animation/talk! I like that he winds up with some thoughts on habitat, as that is such a big part of dog training.

    For me, even with hearing aids on, many training facilities are acoustically very challenging. It’s too many echos and room sound, and I need to be wearing my glasses to read the instructors lips. One of the mistakes I have made in competition involved simply not hearing the judge, or mishearing a table count. So there are these physical issues. One place I used to train installed matting, and it was off-gassing something that really smelled toxic to me and my dog, and gave me a headache. All those issues are sorta training increments, but I think many teachers just try to ignore those kind of issues, like if the room is freezing, or if a dog is barking his brains out in the back of the room (which makes it pretty impossible for me to hear), and they carry on with their teaching plan. More and more I am feeling that I want the environment to BE the teaching plan, or at least to be a good part of it. I know environment shapes behavior, so how can I shape the environment to teach?


  9. Kelly in NJ says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 9:01am

    I enjoyed the newsletter and understood what you meant but then I am the optimist and crave feedback of my performance. I use my own triggers for when I feel the feedback has changed to critisism:
    -delivery may be terrible but it comes from a good place (that is if I know the instructor)If I don’t know that instructor I will make that judment anyway in the begining. It will take repetition of the behavior for me to walk away from that instructor.
    -I also find that if I feel insulted or start to take it personal I start to ask questions. I want to clarify the information and I want to give them feedback about what I am hearing. (so you are saying xyz is that correct?) As Tony Robbins would say,(paraphrasing) it is often our interpretation may not be the intent of the person, so take the time to clarify. It may make all the difference in the world for that learning moment.


    • Susan says:
      Friday, December 3, 2010 at 11:20am

      @Kelly in NJ Brilliant post!


  10. Trudie says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 8:25am

    Thanks Esther I’m going to do that, too.
    Great video,very insightful!
    The comments on working with dogs prompts me to go back and search for Susan’s post on the time one of her dogs blew a contact, got another chance at it and for the same decision missed out on swimming in the pond… I recall that post “spurred” on a lot of comment, just like the “pesky stirrups”!
    Haven’t found it yet, anyone remember the title? but I did come across a terrific 2009 post in “Susan’s Dogs” called “Hanging on to Good Behavior”, all about C.R.A.P. !!


  11. denise says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 7:51am

    Downloaded my two ebooks tonight…. they are brilliant!! So much amazing info that I’m so glad I get to keep and look back on frequently. Can’t wait to get the disc… will be a great christmas present 🙂

    I notice that you’re going to run the course again in your spring….I wonder if I can repeat the course 😉



  12. Esther says:
    Friday, December 3, 2010 at 7:17am

    By reading your post and watching the animation I found out about Sir Ken Robinson. I watched his whole hour presentation on education and the change of paradigm. Loved it and feel very connected to it.
    Keep feeding us these kind of things Susan. Help us stay aware, amazed and not taking things for granted.
    Esther (France)


  13. Mary M says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:56pm

    I love this discussion; so much introspection can be done with the posts and the comments. Please keep going on this, love that you will talk about instructors next.

    I am someone who loves being a student and a teacher….I thrive on new theory, information and research, and then applying what I have learned I also thrive on guiding others to experience things in a new way and learn from this experience.

    I learn from feedback related to altering my application of the information shared, I am happy to try something different (if it works within the constructs of my fundamental beliefs) and I am very willing (because I learn more this way) to debate (not meaning negatively) the validity of a new theory. However I have been, at times, negatively impacted over the years by a few critiques where judgment was behind the comments. On the flipside I have been profoundly changed, in awesome ways, by clear nonjudgmental criticism.

    I think as teachers we need to be mindful that we can make judgments of our students without being cognizant of those judgments, the same way we need to be aware of this when working with our dogs. I try to assume innocence when working with people and dogs, otherwise positive punishment makes sense and in my foundation I choose not to allow positive punishment to make sense. —Disclaimer I am not a saint and cannot say I never raise my voice or loss my cool, but it is pretty minimal and continues to be less and less, as I learn more (both with people and dogs!).
    So in my opinion, both positions, teacher and student, offer many challenges, and both place us in vulnerable spots. (Sort of the yin and yang which makes up learning) On both sides there are lessons, and on both side there can be harmful effects and amazing new outcomes. I honor both positions, recognizing the weight of each, and continue to work on approaching both from a place of assumed innocence. —-again being human the key words here are that I “work on” this!

    Some of my favorites:

    “Optimism is the faith that
    leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” — Helen Keller

    “The greatest sign of a success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” — Maria Montessori

    “Violence begins where knowledge ends.” –Abraham Lincoln

    “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin

    “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.” –Henry Adams


  14. Glenda says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8:57pm

    I was going to say that a good teacher knows when to use the carrot and when to use the stick, but we don’t lure in these parts….


    • denise says:
      Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:14pm

      Very funny 🙂


  15. denise says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8:33pm

    I agree with what you say that in order to learn and grow you have to consider your failings and what your instructor might be saying to you even if the delivery might sound a bit harsh. I had the pleasure to have a working spot with you in your recent trip to Australia and I learnt so much over those few days which left me wanting so much more. I certainly have heard people comment, in reference to you, that you are too harsh as an instructor but I really do believe that they are closing themselves off from a great learning opportunity. I think they misinterpret harshness for what it really is and that is honesty and a passion for students to really truly understand and improve their skills so they can help their dogs be the best they can be. Some people do have the need to only hear good things all the time, but if you’re only ever getting praised and not being challenged to fail then how do you ever learn and grow? You have a great talent and passion for teaching and I’m grateful that you are willing to travel the word and share your knowledge with such enthusiasm and honesty.



    • veronica says:
      Monday, December 13, 2010 at 4:04am

      You said that beautifully.I so agree with your sentiments.
      I too was able to see failure only as a detour to success.
      What en “enlightening” experience that week with Susan was.
      Since the workshop it has taken me another week to get my lecture notes put into context and typed for easy reference……..and of course to be incorperated into my training plans.
      What a great teacher we had and have.


  16. Clyde Thatcher says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 8:14pm

    That is an awesome video and I’m appreciative of your posting it for our viewing. I too have been an educator for 25 years and see each of us as such no matter what walk of life you choose. You just can’t get around being one sometime.

    I guess I’m going to take the road of “It Depends” when it comes to the correction issue. I personally haven’t run into that realm where I needed to even say the word “NO”. My daughter will tell you that the only time she heard me use the word was at a restraurant ordering food with no onion please. But I say “It Depends” because “correction” can come in many forms and for most people they think of the traditional methods. I believe redirection is a form of correction but with better results.

    I guess I’ll be one of the students that you will allow to carry on because of my history in watching the use of “Time Outs”. I have seen them implemented with students, children, and with dogs but with very little success. IT appears to me it is because the learner isn’t cognitive of the purpose of the time out. This is why I was so apprecitative of Susan’s answer to a question on the Recallers webinar when asked when and how to implement punishment. If I remember correctly she told me that first I must earn the right to implement punishment, then I need to diagram the problem behavior, then write out the criteria for the use of punishment, then implement the criteria, and if it doesn’t work the first time, stop using it, and revisit my training plan. Please redirect me if needed Susan.

    Now for being a good student. This is the kind of student I am: I become a

    Sponge: Absorb as much info as I possibly can on the given subject.

    Researcher: I want data showing why these are the methods you want me to implement. This is the only way I know how to ask quesitons too. I also think it’s my reponsibility to verify my newly found information.

    Implementor: Without implementing what I have learned I can not empathize with those who are having trouble and especially if I am passing this information to them. Implementing will show me what areas I need work in and what areas that are my strengths.

    Well long enough I’ll quit for now. =)


  17. Barb says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 6:22pm

    Great that there will also be a “good instructor” component to this discussion. Students and instructors kind of are two sides of the learning process.

    I hope that I haven’t been disingenuous in my comments. I have taught adults in a post-secondary setting for over thirty years, and I have ridden and shown horses for over twenty years. I am currently retired from both. As Susan indicated, experiences shape my thoughts on teaching. And being a student.

    I also am an unstoppable student. I just finished Susan’s Recallers seminar and take other classes and seminars as often as time and money will allow. And I agree that students are best when they come open to new ideas and open to what the instructor offers them. One doesn’t grow from only hearing praise, and it is helpful to be corrected.

    Finally, I’m glad to have this discussion because I believe that everyone is a better student and instructor when the learning is mindful or examined. Most people know what a good instructor is — why? Because most people have sat in a classroom and been exposed to material that they may or may not have had interest in learning. Once a student/instructor starts to think outside of the “sitting in the desk” experience, the opportunity for rich learning experiences opens. And everyone in the experience benefits.


  18. Jenny Yasi says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 5:24pm

    My first teacher was, as everyone said, more of a dog person than a people person and I did leave her class in tears more than once, but I could see from looking at her variety of dogs, and the dogs she dealt with in classes, that she definitely knew her stuff and when I look back all I feel is gratitude. I trained with her for a 28 weeks one time, and 20 weeks another time. I learned so much.

    But another time I went to a very expensive seminar (with JP actually), and it was only one weekend, and I’m working with my reactive easy to shut down dog. And the instructor wasn’t realizing that the way she was talking to me and working with me was influencing (contributing nervous) behavior in my dog. She’d kinda yell with a frustrated tone at me, maybe because I’m hard of hearing, dunno, and my dog would shut down. People don’t usually yell that way at me, and my uncertain dog felt more uncertain to hear it.

    And this instructor stopped us in mid-stride, and she would want to yak at me (correcting me) while I was trying to reinforce my dog and that would also contribute to the shut down of me AND my dog.

    I left a little bit early !


  19. Kathy Smith says:
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 3:14pm

    Well for starters I think it is extremely funny that you spelled Education wrong!! (And to confess when I proof-read this I also did the same thing, LOL).

    This is an amazing post!! The video is beyond amazing!

    I remember all the compliments that you gave me at the seminar I attended last year in 2009 and I remember the lessons I learned as well. Above all what stood out for me was your creativity and I think that is the hallmark of a great teacher!! The willingness to learn even in the face of failure is so important. Delivery from a coach is also important and I stop learning if it turns abusive (yelling) or if they put down my dogs!!

    Those are the only two scenarios that will make me seek someone else.


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