Think Beyond Limits, Be A Difference Maker

Posted on 11/26/11 19 Comments

I first posted this letter and video in one of my webinars last week. Since then I have received private emails and one on Facebook asking to see it again. Funny, at first I didn’t know if I should even share it wondering if it would come off as somewhat self righteous, but I thought it was too powerful not to share .

Hi Susan,

I’ve thought about writing this note for years. I’m not quite sure why I did not do it earlier. Maybe it felt a little like brown-nosing!  But after you shared your new ebook, I read the introduction and realized that this was a story you need to know. Feel free to share it – I tell this story all the time and it is 100% true! After reading it, click the link to a 4 minute video that tells the story in a powerful way. 

One January many years ago (1998-ish), my friend and I found ourselves driving to Jacksonville, FL to attend a dog training seminar.  We had been coerced into going and had to take time off from work to attend, both of us being educators. (She was a chemistry teacher and I was a district-level teacher for instructional technology.)   We knew the day was going to be a waste of time and spent the entire two hour drive bitching about everything we could think of. “Who was this Susan Garrett anyway?” “I don’t believe in clicker training.” “I can’t believe I took a day off from work to do this.” “How did we get talked into this?”

We arrived and settled in, firm in our expectations that the day would be useless.  Within 15 minutes, not only was I proven wrong, my life literally changed forever.  That may sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it is not.  When I realized the truth of what Susan was there to teach, I cried over the level to which I had failed my dogs in the past and the opportunities I had lost as a teacher. 

The connection between what Susan does and the power of constructivist learning in children hit me like a ton of bricks. My dog training experiences over the next few years and my work across 60 schools in my district (and later across the world) eventually caused me to create a presentation called Kids, Canines, And Constructivism, which outlines (using videos of kids and dogs in different learning situations) the similarities between traditional dog training  and traditional school. In both settings, learners shut down and lose the ability to learn deeply. I have presented this across the United States, Canada and England, keynoting educational conferences and working with districts and national organizations. 

I eventually told this story through a simple video called Reflections. This video explains how I had always seen myself a great teacher – district teacher of the year and winner of many many awards. But the truth is, if I saw myself as a great teacher,I was looking in the wrong place. 

My life changed in 15 minutes one cold January morning, because even though I had arrived close-minded, Susan’s message got through. The new ebook, “On Being a Good Dog Training Student”, reminds me how lucky I was that day. But you don’t have to be lucky – this book outlines how you can choose to be a great student, abandon your ego, and become a fearless learner.  

When I asked Diane if I could share her email this is what she wrote back;

I’m thrilled you can use my story to help people! I’ve been using it for years and years to help other educators. When you tell other teachers why their teaching practices have to change, they put up a wall and think, “You can’t tell me anything. I’ve been teaching for 20 years…” But if you first talk to them about dog training and show videos of dogs brought up using old choke-chain, ear-pinch methods being asked to learn something new and videos of what I like to call “the constructivist dog” learning, they listen because they are not dog trainers and nod seeing the undeniable outcomes. And THEN – I show them videos of kids from traditional classrooms and constructivist classrooms, and they show ALL the same behaviors, they can no longer pretend that what I’m saying isn’t true.  I end by telling them my story of the day I met you and I show them the video. There is always stunned silence and sometimes tears. And then I tell them that I hope I’ve been some small part of their 15 minutes that changes them forever.

So you are welcome to use any of that story and video in any way you want forever.

Talk soon;


I know I have written many times that my big vision for my life is to help dogs be better understood and to make a positive difference in the lives of dog owners world wide. And I know that a lot of my Inner Circle group are now living this vision with me. So I would like to encourage each of you also to;

Share what you know.

Start with one dog, maybe help a neighbour with their dog.

Some may call me crazy. What possible difference can we make? With all the dogs in the world and with all of the conflicting training advise being given to dog owners, what possible difference can one person make in the big scheme of things? Well, I am not easily discouraged. I know can we all can make a difference even if it is just one dog at a time, because to that one dog, it is all of the difference in the world.

Here is Diane’s video

Today I humbled to think I have played a small role in the amazing work Diane is doing in educating children and I am grateful to her  for  allowing me to share her story with all of you.


  1. Cathy says:
    Sunday, December 25, 2011 at 7:37pm

    Thank you so much for this insightful clip. I would like ot be able to have it so I can use it a school and to remind me of my job in leading others to open doors.


  2. gail says:
    Monday, December 5, 2011 at 4:12pm

    I am the chemistry teacher who traveled with Diane that day. Stoney made us true believers. What a dog. I’m in puppy peaks and recallers. I still love it and find it endlessly fascinating.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, December 5, 2011 at 9:26pm

      I remember the day well Gail, it was a great group of people and yes Stoni could bake anyone a believer, she was one amazing dog!


  3. kristin vanderpool says:
    Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 11:03pm

    Diane Lewis’ story of transformation is powerful.


  4. Kim says:
    Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 2:20pm

    Im glad you decided to republish this. It’s a great example of how much we all can learn if we just remain open to new information.


  5. Esther says:
    Monday, November 28, 2011 at 7:03am

    Thanks for sharing. You wrote “I know we all can make a difference even if it is just one dog at a time, because to that one dog, it is all of the difference in the world.” That’s what we’re trying to do in our dogclub on Monday’s. We’re not the majority in our club, but it feels so good to see a dogowner leave head high filled with confidence and joy if you’ve seen him enter an hour before shoulders down, desperite, with a stressed dog.
    We’re trying to be good examples with our own dogs and I keep hoping that little by little we will reach more dogowners so that they will also find the joy in living and learning with their dogs.
    Esther from France


  6. Gabi says:
    Monday, November 28, 2011 at 4:18am


    I am also a teacher and some of my colleagues get bored when I try to tell them how much I am learning to teach better at school by learning about how to train my dog! They smile and shrug! But I so agree, it is soo helpful for me, when I despair about a child (I am a primary school teacher and my class presents me with many challenges) and don’t know what to do next or how to help a child or parent, I am starting to think now, what reward could I use, what shaping do I need to do to help them go forward through those closed doors!
    A few months ago I took a mother step by step through a postitive reward system around daily activities to help her with her ADHD daughter at home – it was such a success at home it spilled over to school and the rest of the child’s life, she became one of my most cooperative students in class! And at home, no more nagging, no more quarrels, no more tears!
    It’s all about being positive!


  7. denise says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 7:57pm

    Such a powerful story.


  8. Andrea says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 7:05pm

    I have had many discussions with people about my day job – I am a teacher who hated school so have been careful to not teach to a mirror – I want my students to love school, to be emboldened by school to want to reach their personal moon (or star!)
    The metaphor of the mirror resonates with me – so many teachers look endlessly in a mirror – kids today aren’t what they were XX ago; I like learning this way so students will too; this is what matters most in the curriculm so that’s what I’ll teach

    frustrates me at times but I just paddle upstream and enjoy meaningful relationships with my students 🙂 (of all species!)


  9. Linda says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 6:32pm

    It’s amazing to me that your topic today is about what my daughter and I were talking about this Thanksgiving. My daughter is a middle school special education teacher. She was telling me how frustrated she gets because some teachers who have the children in inclusion classes expect them to learn the same way as the other children. My daughter said that these teachers just don’t understand that the special education children can best learn in short sessions–stopping when they’ve reached a small goal, then doing something they like to do. I told her that her philosophy is the same one that people are using to successfully train their dogs. I’m a lucky mom–I had to find Susan Garrett to be in “do land”, but my daughter has always been there with her students and with my granddaughter!


  10. Chip Blanton says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:05pm

    I am also an educator, 37 years, and have used similar methods for years with my agriculture students but now that I have seen the webinars and read the e book and shaping success I look forward to next semester . My golden retriever is responding to the training like nothing I have ever done. I have used clicker training both with my golden and my Gorden setter and was pleased but your shaping program is beyond that , far beyond . I teach a veterinary science class and we discuss training methods . I will promote your methods to young trainers and owners of family pets. Thank you for Sharing your knowledge this past week in the webinars and the e book . I will continue to use this in my work with dogs and children.

    Chip Blanton
    Agriscience teacher / FFA advisor
    Fort Payne high school
    Fort Payne,Alabama


  11. Barb says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 9:05am

    Glad you posted that! Interesting how lives touch and influences spread far beyond what you might at first believe.


  12. Debra Jones says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:01am

    Susan, that letter and video is so inspiring. I can understand it. You changed my way of thinking from negative reinforcement to Joy training. To see my dog respond to positive training just makes my heart sing…


    • Debra Jones says:
      Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 1:05am

      I also wanted to say I use this philosophy with my grandchildren….works beautifully. Now I need to use it on my dear hubby, he could use some positive reinforcement… :o}


      • Connie Macchione says:
        Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 12:01pm

        Debra, I too use Do-Land concepts with my granddaughter. It’s just magical to watch what happens!

  13. Jenn says:
    Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 12:49am

    As one of your IC peeps who has applied concepts from nearly every monthly webinar in my university classroom this fall as well as in a small group I lead, I assure you that Diane’s experience is not an anomaly. In fact I’d venture to guess that most of your students who internalized your dog training philosophy find it applying to nearly every aspect of life. Powerful stuff you’re helping us learn, and I am so very grateful for having stumbled onto your blog nearly 18 months ago.


    • Liz Droke says:
      Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 9:02pm

      Yep – me too. In fact Diane was brought up in a recent planning meeting for our annual health and nutrition conference. Her talk stuck with the person because she did show the analogy at the beginning. It caught everyone by surprise, but instantly had everyone engaged. Hoping we can get her to come and speak!


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

slide one
slide two