Updated: Feb 28, 2019
I want you to think back to the last time something that made you happy kept you up at night.
Does something pop into your head immediately? I hope so.
For me it was the day we finally secured our venue for our classes (more details revealed soon). For you it might be something different.
Now I want you to think of all the things that made you sad that kept you up at night.
Which ones linger longer? Which ones do you have more of?
I hope it’s the former rather than the latter.
As humans, we tend to fixate on mistakes. We’re obsessed with what people and animals have done wrong, rather than what they have done right. It seems completely hardwired into our culture and into our very beings.
It seems to be far easier to remember someone’s mistakes than their victories. Someone can win sixty rosettes in a row but be defined by that second place win where they almost had it. Someone can go months without their dog reacting, but one management error causes one reaction and that is the moment that sticks in their mind.
As people, it’s easier for us to tear ourselves down for the things we’ve done wrong. We stress over the smallest of errors, mistakes and social miscues that happened years ago still haunt our minds. Training mistakes still nibble at our mind, things we should’ve done but didn’t.
I have one of these mistakes.
I am quite proud to say Kevin is quite robust from a socialisation viewpoint. We took him to lots of different places, and for the most part he is cool with pretty much anything. We have the occasional woof at a sharp sound that catches almost everyone off guard, but he’s pretty cool apart from that.
Where I failed him was training veterinarian behaviours. Behaviours that are trained specifically for use in vet practices, such as a chin rest for eye drops, a roll over onto the belly for belly checks etc.
I just didn’t do them. And, as such, when he developed an ear infection as a puppy, he got taken to the vet.
I can safely say I no longer use this vet, as they proceeded to quite badly manhandle his ears and administer ear drops.
At this point in time Kevin is not only not the hugest fan of the vets, but hates having his inner ears touched, cleaned and given ear drops.
This is something that keeps me up at night.
I feel like a failure, purely and simply because it feels like I should’ve known better as a dog trainer. It should’ve been something I should’ve predicted and worked to prevent. But, I didn’t.
I felt like I failed.
I won’t tell you sometimes I still don’t feel that. We’re working on a behaviour (holding an item) that will allow us to eventually administer the ear drops he might need in the future.
One thing I always tell myself, and something I think we should all tell ourselves is this – I am extremely confident in my ability to get better.
This ‘mistake’ of mine is in the process of being fixed. I am working on learning about these husbandry behaviours, I am working on teaching Kevin to love the vets and I am working on getting him to enjoy taking ear drops.
These mistakes are learning opportunities. They allow us to grow and develop as people and as professionals.
I lay at night thinking about all the mistakes I used to make socially, all the mistakes I might continue to make. But provided I learn and grow from them, I’ll be okay.
We will always continue to make mistakes. And we will always learn something from them.
Let’s just try and spend as much time each night thinking of our successes, as well as our failures.
And that, I think, is how we will continue to help dogs and people.