March 18, 2014 by Julia West
So the other day my friend posted a pretty awesome observation on Facebook and I told her she should put it on a blog. Well, she doesn’t have a blog, so I proudly present my very first guest blogger, Dawn H. I hope you enjoy her observation as much as I did. It also ties into an earlier post comparing dog training and traffic.
Heading to obedience class last week, a funny thing occurred to me. I usually spend the time on the 35 minute drive reflecting on my training, thinking of what my goal is for the next session, etc. I was talking to Bauer, my 23 month old boxer pup in the backseat, telling him of the fun we’re going to have that day, what a smart boy he is, getting him (and myself) pumped for our session, when suddenly… the traffic just stopped. I saw the red lights ahead just moments ago – a caution we’re all familiar with – but I had hoped they would go away before we caught up to them. No such luck.
My thoughts quickly moved from my positive reflection on our training to frustration of being in that moment. Great, now I’m going to be late to class! I’m going to miss all the intro stuff, I won’t have time to walk Bauer before class, get his crate set up, or even have time to breathe before we start. I noticed the lane to my right was moving and went from mental anguish to trying to do something about it. So, I started changing lanes hoping to get to where I was going much faster than if I stayed right where I was.
I found myself switching lanes over and over again, getting more frustrated, and that’s when it occurred to me….a Traffic Jam is much like training our four legged partners.
I spent the next 15 minutes pondering this. The more I noticed my buildup in frustration and worry, the more I thought about my journey in training my dogs. We’ve had times where we’ve slowed down, tried something new, went backwards to go forward again, and moved forward too quickly, which isn’t always effective in our journey. I noticed how we can feel the same emotions sitting in traffic that we do in our training sessions, especially when something doesn’t go our way.
Staying in our lane, we may begin to feel frustrated when our dog doesn’t understand what we’re asking. We may take a detour to try something new, hoping that we eventually reach our destination. We may look over and see others around us moving faster in their own lane and think that switching lanes will solve our problems – and often times, it doesn’t.
If you switch lanes over and over again, you may find yourself much further behind those that you were hoping to catch up to. You may realize that you’ve only moved inches, while others have passed you and moved miles ahead. We try many different maneuvers to get to where we’re going and sometimes they just send us backwards. No matter how we survive the traffic jam, we always survive. Sometimes a lane switch can be successful. But, how many times do we find ourselves switching from lane to lane, only to end up in the same lane we started in? I realized on that drive that if I had just stayed in my lane, I would get where I wanted to go, eventually. I stopped changing lanes and went back to focusing on the road ahead (my training session for the day).
We ended up being early to class. I had plenty of time to walk Bauer, set us up his crate and even time to chit chat with some of my training buddies. As Bauer and I worked through our session, I kept thinking about that traffic jam and how it fits so well into my journey as a trainer overall. There are times that I find myself in the wrong lane, heading in the wrong direction, and fighting to find my way back again. I’ve taken a few detours along the way and discovered new paths to my goals that I never would have imagined. When I look at the dogs I’ve trained, the challenges we shared, and the time it took to develop our skills, the traffic jams no longer matter. They didn’t exist. It was about the journey to our destination – not about sitting in traffic, biting my nails, hoping it would just all go away.
Bauer and I now “play” a lot in traffic. Something my parents warned me to never do. OK, we don’t actually “play” in traffic, but consider the metaphor. I’ve learned to pay attention to those red lights ahead and start thinking about my path to get around it. Is it worth sticking with it or is it time to discover a new detour? Is it worth changing lanes once, twice, or perhaps 15 times? If I change lanes, will I get ahead or am I slowing myself down? I’m focusing more clearly on the journey rather than the challenges it takes to get there.
I try to end every session from now on with saying, “Today was a good day playing in traffic.”….
Even if I had to cuss out a few people who cut me off in traffic to get there.