Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mirror and Frame: Why Dog Training So Often Fails


What do people want to be true about themselves when it comes to the world of dogs?

What do people almost always believe about themselves when they look in the mirror?

Let me suggest four common ideas:

  • I am a good person. I am kind. I am not a mean person. 

  • I am discerning. I am smart – almost a genius. 

  • My dog is family. I love, respect, and value my dog. 

  • I know about dogs. I have had dogs in the past and I did OK with them. I read. I Wikipedia. I YouTube. I Facebook. I watch TV. 

These four things, I would suggest, are what almost every dog owner wants to see reflected back in the mirror. This is what people believe about themselves, true or not. 




So what do dog trainers actually mirror back?

Oddly, we are not as good at this "mirror" thing as the dogs are!

Too often what we mirror back to people is not a recognition and affirmation of a client's values, but an enlarged reflection of ourselves.

This is done all the time is almost every profession.

How many of us have been in a situation where folks use jargon and word-salad to prove they know the lingo and, by extension, are authorities?

How many of us have seen folks toss around their credentials? Name drop? Demonize others?

How many of us have ever seen someone suggest that something simple is actually so complicated they really need to hire a priest class to guide them through it?


All of this is pretty common stuff  in all professions. But it’s particularly problematic in the world of dog training, because dog training is not a point-of-sale kind of business.

Yes you can train a dog, or provide instruction, but what you say WILL NOT STICK unless a second person – the client – internalizes and follows through with it, and not just once, but again and again and again, on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

For that to occur, the person has to think what they are doing reflects well on them.


What they see in the mirror has to look good, for it to look good, there needs to be a strong frame around it, which is solid understanding of how the training techniques they are using fit within the world of dogs as they understand dogs to work.

Pure click and treat dog trainers have an easier time doing this.

No wonder! Think about it.

  • I am a good person. A good person offers everyone ice tea and cake, right? 

  • I am discerning. Click and treat is “new” and “scientific” right? Who wants to be old and non-scientific? No one!

  • My dog is family. I would never spank a child or put a leash on my daughter. I will treat my dog the same as I would treat my baby

  • I know about dogs. Dogs are not complicated. They are easy. How you train dogs to do a trick is how you train dogs to do everything.

Sound familiar?
It should.

This is the mirror and the frame through which so many people approach the world of dogs and dog training. 

3 comments:

Jennifer said...

Great post . . . except:

As an old woman who is ok with ageing, I don't care for you choice of images. Many women are not vane frivolous things trying to imagine themselves young again. It's not like males and young people are immune to self-deception.

PBurns said...

I have to say, your comment is a bit amusing. You think these pictures are about you? You think these pictures are about looks? You think these pictures are about women? Mirror mirror, on the wall...,

NBW Terriers said...

...tell me mirror what is wrong...:-)
Good read