I have a problem with needing to feel heard. If nothing I say or do right is ever acknowledged, I get frustrated and shut down.
I was reminded of this tonight at agility.
We had an indoor class because it has been monsooning. We went over the basics of how to clicker train. Um…hello? I teach other people how to do this. But that’s OK, I figured good review. It was just sooooo slow and sooooo boring.
But that’s not the point.
Eventually they decided to have us each practice nose targeting one at a time. Toby hadn’t done this in about a year (with a target on the ground), and he’d just spent 30 minutes working quietly for me and being comtained while the teacher talked (and talked and talked). So we get up for our turn. And he does phenomenal! At least, in my mind. Within a half-dozen clicks I have him going to get his treat and trotting back over to the target from a few feet away. He got one click for his first investigation and almost instantly figured out what to do. I feel like I’ve done well, both with this trick and his foundation.
But no comment to that effect.
We go around again and hit my turn. Before we can start the teacher starts harping on me about how Toby isn’t motivated enough. How I need to get him more up. And how I need to get him touching multiple times. (Which I had no idea was a goal, for the record.)
And OK. It’s true. Toby’s not motivated. I didn’t think this needed to be a super-high-drive trick. And he’s doing it fine, just kinda whatever. He’s tired, he’s cold, he’s bored, and he knows I’m bored. So he’s figuring it out and having fun, but not being super up about it. We’re both working.
All he had to do was say, “OK, he’s doing great touching the target and going to it from a distance, now let’s see if we can build some motivation and get him touching multiple times!”
See how much better that is than, “His drive is low. How can you get him excited? And get him to touch it multiple times.”
It’s not a big thing.
It’s just that it’s all.the.time.
I don’t want a “compliment sandwich.”
Just an acknowledgement that I did some good.
And so, because I felt like I wasn’t really being seen because there was no acknowledgement of anything good we had done, I would find myself commenting to try to defend myself.
I can take criticism.
But I wanted to hear a, “OK, good point! How can we work around that?” or “Well, good that you know!” rather than, “Prove it,” or “Do this other unrelated thing.”
I kept talking and responding because I felt like I wasn’t being heard. And I couldn’t stop myself. I just needed a tiny acknowledgment that I might have some clue what I was doing.
I have come away from agility in the past so disheartened, because I feel like Toby did something GREAT! Maybe he ran when he normally doesn’t, or took an obstacle he just learned..but when I get off the course, all I hear is, “Next time, work on this.”
And I know. I’m there to be told what to work on.
But you lose your motivation when it feels like no one sees your successes.
It takes two extra seconds to say, “Wow, great job on that hoop! Next time, work on this.”
Is it really that hard?
I am constantly telling my students to watch for their dogs being good, not just to react when they’re bad. I remind them to keep things positive, to give corrections but then immediately set up to succeed and reward. Don’t just harp on the bad. And, for the most part, they get it.
Why is it so hard for this teacher to do with his human students?
And I know I don’t do this with my human students. It is just obvious to me. You don’t walk up and correct someone all the time. Maybe I say, “That was great! Try this…” and that’s all. But there’s still that lead in.
I know it’s not a big deal. It’s not. It’s a little thing.
But that little thing building up for years starts to take its toll.