While a rigid training program can be good, too much rigidity within the training is not. When we look at a stockdog we are looking at an individual; not a machine, not a program, not even a group, but an individual with a mind and purpose.
Thinking a dog sets its own purposes may bother some but hear me out. When a dog moves it does so for food, shelter, comfort, interest, etc.; there is a purpose to the movement. A dogs motivations set the purpose.
With this in mind we have to look at what each dog is doing at any given time. Motivations can change with time or in moments. We have to adapt our approach to what the dog is thinking; its purpose at the moment. As soon as we think there is only one way of getting the task accomplished, we set ourselves up to fail (or our dogs to fail).
We have to adapt to each dog and/or each day. What works for one dog may not be as successful with another. What works one day with a dog can be different with the same dog on another day. The dog or handler can be in a different frame of mind at different moments. This changes how they have go about accomplishing the task at hand.
Adapt to the dog. Adapt to how you feel and how your dog feels. You need to get the things you have asked for but find the way that works with that dog at that moment.
So to set up for success with rigidity: Simply be rigid in your training but flexible in your approach. Train your dogs, set your standards, but adapt to the situation.
2) Lack of rigidity:
Wait didn’t we just say rigidity was a sure way to fail? Well if you were paying attention, we did. In this case , however, we are referring to not having standards. Good work is good work. In order to accomplish good work we have to have a standard of good work.
Now this is not saying to be a perfectionist. Demanding perfection will cause you to fail due to a problem with Rigidity (see #1). As we train our dogs we set our standard based on what they know. What is acceptable from a pup can not be acceptable from a trained adult. We build to perfection but can not demand it.
Good work does not change with breed of dog. Styles may change but work does not. A dog needs to be appropriate with is stock no matter the breed. Lowering a standard of work because that is what a breed does, is an excuse. Some breeds, as well as individuals in a breed, may hit certain standards quicker or easier then others. Time changes but standard of work has to stay the same. Remember we turn weaknesses into strengths to achieve a standard of work. if that is not the case, why train?
As an example of standards that rise; when I have a young dog the standard is that it is fair to its stock. This might mean that it is a little pushy or does not flank clean or any number of things but it is allowing stock an option to go (or stay if the dog is holding) someplace and everything is safe. As the dog learns the standard has to increase. In this case the standard would continue to raise till the dog was pushing and flanking appropriately. Once there the standard must be maintained.
Be flexible in how you get it but be rigid to your standards.
3) Failing to try:
This is the surest way to fail. When we fail to try we do not avoid failure, we ensure it.
One of the main reasons I think people do not try is the fear of mistakes. We learn from mistakes as well as, if not better than, from our successes. You determine success. Sometimes learning is more of a success then accomplishing. If you learn, accomplishing becomes easier the next time.
I know in this blog post I have been talking about failing, but I think it really comes down to this: Not setting standards or not being adaptable are really mistakes. We can learn from them and grow when we see we are making them. The only way to truly fail is to not try.
So get on out there. Have fun, learn, grow. Let failure go because you never really fail unless you stop trying.