Stacy Winkler's Keen Dog Blog

Finding the fun in creating great dog agility behaviors


A Magic Pill for Dog Training

Keen, Stacy and Groove

Keen, Stacy and Groove

Ahhhh…… “How sweet life could be. I just NEED that perfect thing, the quick fix,……..the “magic pill”.”

Magic Pill: A super cool technique. Something that will get me there faster, be far superior to my current method and will be much easier to apply and teach. Yeah! Awesome!

I totally get it. Deep down inside we may all have the lament, “There must be a better way! An easier way” (although we may not admit to that one!) “And there absolutely MUST be a quicker way! Right?”

Simple enough to imagine this thought process considering the fact that technology, research and life in general changes at such a fantastical pace.

Sometimes it is quite difficult to remember the old adage “ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and often while looking for bigger, or smaller (in technologies’ case) and better, we cease to respect that the old way may be awesome!

So ok, let’s get real. Maybe…..possibly ……. alright, sometimes. Sometimes, that is absolutely the case, there is a better way.

Instructors come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Some have a great depth of knowledge, have a great eye, are always evolving and have students that do extremely well. Their students’ behaviors are far better than those around them, their handling is clear and the dog’s understanding of behaviors and cues is very evident. The dogs from this instructor clearly enjoy their work and are very engaged with their trainer.

Then there are the trainers who, taking an example from agility, hang up a shingle, go through massive amounts of students having never themselves even trained a dog who is capable of competition.

And of course, there is every single flavor in between.

Now you may be with a trainer in whom you lack confidence. You are not very impressed with their abilities or their students’ but they are the only game in town. Or maybe you started with them and then once you understand the game better you realize that an instructor you thought was excellent is really 2nd tier and you need more help. This is one of those situations where, yes, of course, there is a better way.

But let’s say you have done your research, listened to recommendations, watched the trainer and their students and feel confident that they excel at what they do. This is the trainer I first described. Then let’s say said trainer brings you to the point where you are having great success. You are achieving many of the goals you have set out to accomplish, or you are at least well on your way, but you want to get to that next level. You want to solve some of the problems that have been plaguing you when you are so very close to the brass ring. It is then that you may start to get frustrated. After all, you are so very close but…it’s always that one thing. You see other folks around you turning on to the next newest and coolest thing. They are constantly chattering in your ear about how incredible that newest and sexiest thing is and that you must be stuck in the mud and inflexible not to consider changing to the newest method, and that is when you really begin to doubt your current path.

The doubt and frustration are totally understandable. When you get to an elite level of any discipline, everything needs to be more elevated and is more difficult to achieve. The separation between those at the very top can be about who has the ability to train stellar behaviors or even a minutely more stellar behavior. There is rarely anyone just getting by at the top. And “stellar” is always a more difficult state to achieve than “pretty darn good.”

And guess what? It can really get hard at this point!

What if oftentimes it is not the finding of the magic pill that is the problem, but the temptation and journey to seek the magic pill that is actually the root of the trouble?


Because sometimes we take so much time and put so much energy into worrying that what we have is not enough, that we have no time or energy to put into the training techniques that we had once thought were amazing.

Looking for “something better” becomes a soul sucking journey into mediocrity. Because we don’t or won’t commit to what we have begun, we begin to slowly abandon our current magic pill (i.e. training technique) believing it is no longer sufficient to achieve our goals.

Seems to me this search for something better often begins as soon as the path we are currently committed to becomes too difficult or time consuming, too much work, or maybe it just didn’t progress the way we thought it should.

Or perhaps, deep down, we are afraid that we just don’t have the ability to work through the training problem or understand how to elevate the skills to take them to the next level.

So rather than deeply committing to our current course of action, putting our head down, determined to accomplish our goal with the technique we are using, we slowly start to give up.

And while we begin to devote more time and energy into looking for that “better, best and way way more better technique,” unfortunately, we put less and less energy into what could have actual been an amazing journey into raising the level of our abilities, skills and accomplishments and guess what? The attainment of our ultimate goal!

Once again I totally get it! It is hard to take things to the next level and beyond. It can be scary and frustrating to take what seems like too much freakin’ time. I might have to (Oh Horrors!) make the effort to plan a strategy, accept there will be some failure (maybe a lot) and keep track of my progress. There might need to be much more to treating my ultimate goal than just taking my dog into the backyard, look around and think, ummm I guess I think I need to work on ummmm……this.

Guess what happens when this goes on? Yup, not much. We tend to repeat the same patterns over and over and progress a wee bit, but big progress? Not so much, because once we start to get to the point where we go beyond the norm, seat of your pants training is no longer good enough to reach your goals.

When you have big goals, and want great behaviors, unless you have that once in a lifetime super savant dog, you are just not going to get there without big time effort.

After all you will never know how far you can go and what you can accomplish if you quit the journey when the path to accomplishing your goal becomes a challenge.

My thoughts are that so much of success in any endeavor is in the journey to the ultimate goal.

Ultimately, what if the time you spend looking for something better was put into elevating the training of the current track you have begun? Maybe you had confidence in that training technique for a darn good reason!

You ever think that rather than spending time looking for “The Magic Pill“ if you worked hard enough and were diligent enough to complete your training track, even when it is more of a struggle that you anticipated, you might find that you have already achieved your goals?

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