Failing Your Way to Dog Training Success

Posted on 11/18/11 15 Comments

I think history has proven that learning happens primarily through mistakes, that is what “experience” is all about.  Some of the world’s greatest successes have also been amongst the biggest failures. Thomas Edison, who most famous invention was the lightbulb said this when asked about all of his failures

“I didn’t fail, I just found 10,000 ways it didn’t work.”

In addition to the lightbulb old Edison also held 1,093 U.S. patents as well as many other patents in the UK, France and Germany. Funny story, and totally inspiring about him, is that when ole Tommy boy was a child of  4 he was sent home from school with a note that explained he was being expelled from school because he was “too stupid to learn”. He only had 3 months of formal schooling, one of the first great “home school” success stories, I guess eh?

Did you know that Michael Jordan (the best basketball player of all time) was cut from his high school basketball team, one of my favourite Michael quotes is;

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

And of course, being Canadian, I have to include the great quote from hockey’s all time greatest player, “the great one” Wayne Gretzky;

“You will always miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Imagine the rejection these superstars felt, enough frustration and rejection I am sure to consider walking away from their dream for ever.

Last night I caught the tail end of a TV show called “The X Factor” There was a young hip hop artist performing and he was amazing (I love hip hop). Apparently he was voted to be in the bottom two and was in risk of being booted off of the show and had to “sign for his life” to earn a chance to stay. When it was his turn to sing he was thinking he wouldn’t do it. His attitude was if people didn’t think enough of me to leave me in the bottom two, I don’t want to sing for them. He is a young kid and likely this was one of first major failures in his life and it was public. His current attitude (and I really hope it changes because I LOVE his music) is a common one amoungst the millions of people that will never achieve their dreams, reach their potential or change history.

Failure is the greatest teacher and although it is often bruising to the ego, it is really a true friend. You know like one of those friends,  who is brutally honest with us, one of those “just telling it like it is” kind of friend.

Although sometimes difficult, it is so important to keep this in mind when training your dog. If you can learn from each failure and learn from the feedback of your dog’s failures, dog training becomes less complicated and more rewarding for both you and your dog. But communication between dog and trainer must go two ways…we need to listen as well as teach.

Learning from your dog is one of my top ten suggestions when designing a game to help you overcome a dog training challenge (if you want to see the full list just go and watch the latest in video in this week’s webfest of free videos.) Can you imagine if people like Edison had given up on his 9,999th attempt? You will never know when eureka moment is going to hit and the lightbulb will come on . . .so to speak.

For me that trueth is what  keeps me trying new things.

Today I am grateful to each of you that are sharing your struggles and leaving awesome comments on the webinars this week. Oh by the way, we are going to have a LIVE webinar on Monday night, will be a blast it will be both Lynda Orton-Hill and myself on camera sharing laughs and digging deep into dog training . . . how much fun is THAT.


  1. Mary says:
    Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 7:48am

    Not only a good post but one that gives thought to how our attitude should be with our own failures but how we should teach children to look at failure.

    All my failures that have been learning experience and taken me to new levels.


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 5:51pm

      So true Mary!


  2. Craig says:
    Friday, November 25, 2011 at 8:53pm

    In do-land, shouldn’t these be called do-zies?


    • Susan says:
      Friday, November 25, 2011 at 9:32pm

      LOL good one Craig!


  3. Gabi says:
    Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 5:50am

    what I now always tell my students: “Don’t worry if you have made a mistake, it is important to notice your mistake, because they are there for us to learn from!”
    so I could not agree more with you,


  4. Margie says:
    Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 5:04pm

    Susan one of my favorite sayings is
    EXPERIENCE is what you get when you don’t get what you want..
    I cannot tell you how many times I have reminded myself of that. We are 14 points away from our OTCH lots of experience..hee hee Margie


  5. Mary M says:
    Monday, November 21, 2011 at 11:38am

    I saw the end of the same X Factor and was hoping the young man would have a change of heart as well, I felt for him, being he is so young and on such a public stage, but I too hoped he would see all the possibility in his passion if he could shift his attitude….hopefully as he grows this will happen for him! Was a tough one I just wanted to give him a hug and talk to him about all that was before him, he is young and has so much in front of him – hopefully the judge that is coaching him will help guide him accordingly.

    But from watching him and having these thoughts I did some self reflection into my own life, powerful stuff in your post here today and it all resonates!


  6. Debra Jones says:
    Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 7:49pm

    Loved your post, Susan! you are so right…we learn from our mistakes and make them to better ourselves…I could tell you of many failures in my lifetime! Especially with my dogs… :o{


  7. Hannah says:
    Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 2:44pm

    Will the live Webinar be avaible after it’s done being live? I’m not going to have access to a computer until Tuesday morning, and I love your webinars.(:


  8. Linda says:
    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 11:18pm

    I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

    What makes Micheal Jordan so great is that he knows exactly how many times he missed the game winning shot.


  9. Shannon says:
    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 9:35pm

    Thank you for this post, I love your attitude! Someone on an email list commented this week that ‘home-schooled’ trainers (amateurs that aren’t taking dog training classes) mostly learn through trial and error. I was vaguely offended by that, and your post made me realize why. What’s wrong with trial and error?? LOL. I’m proud of the way I learn/train…and as a stubborn person, it’s the only way I ever will anyway! Tell me something 1,000 times but I’ll only believe it if I try it myself. 🙂


  10. Julia says:
    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:48pm

    > Funny story, and totally inspiring about him, is that when ole Tommy boy was a child of 4 he was sent home from school with a note that explained he was being expelled from school because he was “too stupid to learn”. He only had 3 months of formal schooling, one of the first great “home school” success stories, I guess eh?

    Sorry, but this is completely incorrect. Read any biography about him (or just check the wikipedia page) and you’ll see that it’s a complete myth (although a common one) that he did poorly in school – rather, he excelled.


    • Debra Jones says:
      Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 7:48pm

      Julia, even ‘myths’ have their lessons in life! We do know that ole Tommy had over 1,000 Patents…many of those patents were failures. I would imagine that’s where that came from…he was a very persistent human being and didn’t let those failures get him down….that’s the point! :o}


  11. Dianne Marshall says:
    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 5:19pm

    In dog mushing the last person to finish in a race earns the Red Lantern Award. Mushers will tell you they learned far more when they earned the Red Lantern than when they had a clean run and finished first. Most of those that earned the Red Lantern are proud of how they over came all the obstacles and were able to finish! One of my boys won his class in the Junior North American Championships one year and my other earned a Red Lantern one year. The Red Lantern still sits in the living room and I am not sure where the winning trophy is today.


  12. Anna Lupacchino says:
    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 1:21pm

    Love this Susan! I see failure as another opportunity to improve. I say this to my students all the time. It was great to read this post.


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