The first year with a new dog is a test of patience! So much to train! So much to do! The first year is more about creating good manners, building a strong relationship, and simply learning about each other. For dog trainers, we also want to teach them fun tricks and skills for future competition. Add to that how each dog takes you down a different path, often requiring a new approach to training. They will learn behaviors in a different way, maybe pick things up faster or challenge you in other ways. You will encounter hurdles and find ways to navigate the obstacle course of training and learning.
And you may get frustrated and feel like you aren’t making any progress. The neat thing of it is … you ARE making progress even if you aren’t seeing it. It’s similar to not noticing that your puppy or child is growing and changing each day but they are. Drac is now 14 months old and at times I wonder if we are making progress. And then I see that growth spurt! He’s a big boy now in many skills and behavior areas. I recently dropped in on an agility class (thanks Anne Stocum!) and I was pleasantly surprised at the skills he had and his self control around the other boisterous young dogs! I realize now that I have passed many hurdles and also still recognize that there will be more to come. I know that I have the skills and resources to work through new challenges and to find new approaches to continue on our training journey.
The thing of it is, so many of the skills we want do not have to be proficient for years. How nice is that? We have the luxury of time to break things down into very small pieces and build success and confidence in our training. One example is our teeter skills for agility. From the time we started our teeter skills, Drac won’t need to do a full height teeter for 12+ months. That’s a lot of time to take our time and get it right! He is also quickly developing his Nosework skills. He’s certified on all 3 odors to enter trials, but I won’t enter him right away. It’s too early. He may be ready to pass, but he needs a bit more mileage in novel places and a bit more time to mature. This is not a time to rush and risk setbacks. Foundations take time to build and will set the tone for your long competition career.
Another skill we are working on is a fold back down (thanks Hannah Branigan for the devils in the detail!). The fold back down does not come natural to Drac. (Luckily his tuck sit came standard!) On his down, he wants to move forward or sit first, then down. Drats, another laborious skill to teach! But wait, it’s ok. I won’t need that finished behavior for years when we are competing in Open/Utility obedience! I have plenty of time to build those muscles and physical understanding of what is required. I am enjoying the process of working on his daily “pushups”!
What’s the main take way ?? By knowing the timeline for competition you can more confidently and intelligently plan your training. Relax, slow down and enjoy! Instead of feeling impatient, be excited and take your time. Embrace the process of breaking down skills and appreciate the beauty of small, yet significant accomplishments that will eventually lead to fabulous performances in your future!
Speaking of training, check out all the upcoming classes at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. You can find my classes under the school of Nosework and Obedience!