So often we’re told that, if we cannot motivate ourselves to achieve something, we’ll never achieve anything. That’s true, of course, because if we don’t take action we won’t reach our goals. So the usual line of thinking goes something like this: you have to find motivation inside you, take action, and then see the results of your actions. The problem is if we have zero motivation inside us, how are we going to get motivation from within? So we give up before we even start!

My argument is that we need to see some results first, and then will feel motivated to continue working towards our goals. So the line of thinking goes like this: take action even with zero motivation, see some results, then you’ll feel motivated to continue working towards your goal.

How does all this translate into dog training? Well, as I do mainly private classes, it’s shocking the amount of clients who say “I’m no good at this”, “you make it look so easy but I can’t do it”, and other self-defeating talk that will surely set them up for failure! So my advice is this:

– Decide what you want to teach your dog and write it all down. For example, you want to teach him to walk on a loose leash, come when called, drop something he may have picked up, sit.

– Then, imagine yourself teaching him all these things, but one at a time. During this process you’re likely to come across some mental blocks. You may feel excited when you imagine yourself teaching your dog to sit, and may feel aversion when you imagine teaching him to walk on a loose leash. This feeling of aversion is a mental block and mental blocks, just like the feelings of excitement, are important feedback. It’s the kind of feedback that tells you, at a subconscious level, what you feel more at ease teaching and what will be a challenge for you to teach.

– Based on your feelings of excitement and feelings of aversion, write the order in which you want to teach your dog these exercises, starting with the one that caused you the most excitement when you imagined yourself teaching it, and ending with the one that caused you the most aversion. So your list may look like this: sit, dropping something he picked up, coming when called, walking on a loose leash.

– If teaching your dog to sit is the exercise that caused the most excitement when you imagined yourself teaching it, begin with it. This is the first bit of action you’re going to take in your dog training endeavor, and the one which will show you immediate results. Why? Because you feel confident in your ability to teach your dog to sit.

– Now that you took action, saw the result (your dog sits perfectly every single time you ask him to), and are feeling good about it, the motivation to continue is way above zero. Move on to teaching the next exercise on your list, and the next, and the next. The more positive results you see, the more motivated you’ll feel to face and teach the more challenging exercises.

You may need the help of a professional dog trainer, but needing professional help isn’t the issue here. The issue is you and how you’re going to motivate yourself to train your dog even if with guidance from a professional.

– Alexandra Santos –


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