Reinforcement based training takes a hit when people on the outside see it fail. That is the truth with any systematic way of training. Critics use those that have little success as a warning sign of impeding doom to any that would attempt to train using similar methodology. There are so many people wanting to train their dog without physical or verbal corrections yet they lack the expertise to do so. What results is a run-a-muck dog with no rules, little manners and sloppy skills. Nay sayers are quick to point a finger and say “that is why you shouldn’t clicker train your dog!” That has got to be ok. You may not be where you want to be, but you are being true to your core beliefs and working towards the kind of relationship you want with your dog.
We are all on our own journey and at any given times there will be various levels of success and failure. People who would point a critical finger are doing so because they feel the need to justify the choices they have made for their dogs. It may appear they find joy in your misfortune but that joy is only a veil masking the uncertainty they have in their own path. Earlier in my career I received massive amounts of criticism because of Buzz’s wild barking in agility. My detractors would say “if this clicker-crap works wo well, why can’t she get that dog shut up?” Rather than seeing the brilliance of all of the rest of Buzzy’s skills they only saw what was not perfect. That was okay. They were on their journey, I was on mine. If you haven’t done so, it may give you comfort to reading about the struggles and joys of my journey by reading “Shaping Success, The Education of an Unlikely Champion.”
Through it all, I never let anyone’s expectations or criticisms put pressure on me . I didn’t allow someone else’s definition of success define mine, and neither should you. We are all exactly where we are supposed to be. Anyone finding their way in a reinforcement based training system will discover that the success comes easier once you improve your knowledge on how to better manipulate your dog’s environment and reinforcement.
Rather than looking at what is lacking, take pride on what is there, even if it is only a happy dog living a happy life. The rest will come when you search for more answers. That is where I am. I certainly don’t feel I have all of the answers, personally I feel we are all just scratching the surface as far as dog training understanding goes. That is what keeps me hungry to continue to learn more both for my dogs and for my students.
Today I am grateful for the awesome group of “hungry” students I had in for camp over the last four days. There were some students brand new to the methodology others showing awesome skill and success. I take a great deal of pride in being part of each journey.