I am having a conversation with John who works in the solar industry. We are discussing the fact of how safety protocols – which are abounding in his profession – are sometimes in conflict with what the client wants: less downtime and more production.
As he is sharing with me this everlasting conflict, I begin to think about how it is kind of the same in the world of dog training.
Protocols, and I am defining a protocol as: a methodology & list of “steps” or conditions to follow are there for a reason. So what happens then when we (professionals) succumb to client’s pressure that it is taking too long or too much money to reach their goals?
I can think of at least a few instances where the breaking of protocols or just hurrying the process along can have grave consequences. Most of the work I do is helping clients with their fearful or aggressive dogs. Neither scenarios are easy or speedy in resolution.
Think, for example, of a dog that has demonstrated either fear or aggressive behaviors in a certain context and has not yet learned the skills to deal with the situation differently. Now the dog is exposed to the offending stimulus. As a result, we will not only undue the strides made in teaching the dog new behaviors and most importantly change his emotional conditioning, but it can very well result in someone getting badly hurt. Or sued… which is really the bottom-line for most folks dealing with aggression.
Another situation that is really sensitive to working at the dog’s pace and making sure the protocols established are polished to a high degree of execution is when the well-being of the dog is at stake. Yes, I can argue that a dog that is afraid (or aggresses) can fall under this criteria. It is definitively very taxing to be afraid a lot of the time. Especially if we are having to confront the object of our fear on an ongoing basis. Aggression, by the way, is most of the time the quantifiable symptom of a dog that is under some sort of duress.
So what is one to do? First off I think it serves us to recognized that cutting corners and being in denial of how long it will take to reach our ultimate goal are part of the human experience.
As such, it behooves us to be on alert so that we can monitor our own natural tendency to do just that – cut to the chase.
Once we realize that cutting corners or hurrying love can really undermine our ultimate goals, we can reevaluate them. Here lies again one of the reasons why it is so hard to convince folks to stick with the training recommendations. It is difficult to remain motivated when the reinforcer is not at our grasp… The ever present scenario of short-term gratification spans long-term (lasting) goal. Just look around- it is a malady!
One of the strategies that I think that can really serve us in not only reaching our goals, but remaining motivated to do so is to exercise empathy for our dogs when they need us to be their advocate. As well as exercising empathy for our situation when our culture screams at us on a daily basis to move faster and faster… taking a mini-break from goal-reaching while keeping everyone out of trouble and distress is also a valuable strategy for staying in the “game.”
Finally, and I cannot say this any clearer, keeping some sort of factual record of the positive changes and improvements in our dog’s behaviors will keep us focused on the task at hand because the truth is that life in general is more of a mix of good- and- not so good news and we tend to see all the bad news all the time. Acknowledging progress is oh, so good for the soul!
So remember, the next time you are considering the temptation to hurry the process or altogether skip a protocol think that any relationship worth having or any goal worth attaining requires that we agree to not hurry love- but to stay put for the long haul.