Setting Up For Success

Nothing has ever been learned from a teacher who tries to trip-up their student, correct mistakes before they’ve happened, never rewards the student’s effort…

Nothing has ever been learned from teachers like this, except: I don’t like to learn. I can’t learn. I’m stupid.

So why do we continue to teach our animals with these methods?

I’m a true believer in rewarding effort in students, human and animal. If I throw a frisbee for a dog and the dog doesn’t catch it, that’s alright with me as long as I can see that the dog put out some effort. When I see that the dog tried really hard and didn’t catch it because he or she is inexperienced, I never dare get negative with the dog.

If I were to yell at the dog, or make it feel bad in some way, what would be the dog’s motivation to catch a frisbee in the future? So far, she thinks: frisbee = awful.

Instead, I would set the training session up for success. Maybe start off tossing the frisbee right to the dog, just a foot away, so that it’s very easy to catch. Once the dog was able to catch the frisbee with ease, I’d throw it a little bit farther, and farther… and farther. That is setting up for success.

This way, the learning is effortless. When the teacher sets up for success and the student puts in effort, there will be endless opportunities.

To set up for success means to keep up the training and education. Taking long breaks from learning is not benefiting the student, or your animal, well.

Don’t create situations where the student will most likely fail the task and end up feeling bad about themselves. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t be challenging, because being challenged is what moves the student forward.

It can not be good when a teacher, or trainer, is challenging a student without providing the resources or knowledge required to carry out the task.

Start off teaching simple, clear steps that lead up to your goal and move at a fast pace, while giving your student the knowledge and training they need to keep up and thrive under your guidance.

Be there for them and make sure they don’t feel lost and unconfident.

Reward effort more than anything, and allow them to make mistakes before correcting them. A student cannot learn from their mistakes if a teacher bashes them down before they even did anything „wrong“. Someone who wishes to learn, human or animal, needs to be given the freedom to explore and experiment. When strict boundaries are formed, learning is limited.

If we, as students, don’t experience a trip and fall every once in a while, we won’t know how to get back up when we do fall. Allow room for some mistakes (as long as it doesn’t threaten the student’s safety), and be there to help them figure out what they did wrong. This way, they are given a chance to improve in the future.

Most of all, have fun! Challenge yourself and your animal – learn!


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