In today’s post, I’d like to address the topic of about training as it relates to your dog.
My dad is an awesome guy. For my whole life, he’s been in sales: sales training, leadership training, and helping people in his field succeed. Even when I was a kid, I read business magazines and books and traveled with my dad to leadership and sales capacitation training events.
On one of those times, I remember my dad teaching me a concept that has stuck with me ever since. He was telling me how a company that he was working for had quantified leadership into a collection of “pillars,” or character traits. They had picked out twelve or fourteen traits that made up good leaders. He told me that some of the best leaders on earth are experts at three or four of those pillars—not every single one. As we talked about becoming a better leader, I assumed that if you were good at one or two of these pillars that you should work at the other ones. His response? Nope! Instead, he told me, you should double down on the areas you have strengths.
Of course, it’s never a bad idea to improve on your weaknesses. But your ability to improve a weakness probably won’t elevate you to an expert level in that capacity. My dad always said that to become a better leader, what you really need to do is get even better at the things you’re already good at. He went on to teach me that this concept applied to sales, to marketing, to every area of business.The point of this concept isn’t to ignore everything else, just to develop a singular focus. Obviously my conversation with my dad was business-focused, but I was thinking recently about how this concept can be applied to dog training, both from our dogs’ perspectives and from our own.
First of all, we need to see what our dog’s strengths are and double down on them. Oftentimes, people try to make their dogs into something that they’re not. Perhaps they want their dog to be exactly like their childhood dog, when it has a completely different personality and character. Or perhaps they want to make their anxious, nervous dog into a happy-go-lucky one. Instead of looking for the dog’s strengths, they try to turn it into something it’s not. But I can guarantee that if you double down on training with the tennis ball, other parts of that dog’s character will fall into line. Develop that one trait, and the dog’s anxiety will get better. Maybe your aggressive dog has a great capacity to focus. Get stronger on that!
When you’re training dogs, this leadership model is very effective. If we can double down on our dog’s strengths, then their weaknesses will fade away and become less relevant—just like being highly competent in a few leadership pillars will make you an better overall leader by compensate for your weaknesses. It’s also a very fun mental exercise to figure out what your dog is good at, and dig deeper into their brains.
But this concept also applies to you, whether you keep one dog as a family pet or train hundreds of dogs every year. A long time ago, I realized that I have a talent for finding the functionality in training but I’m not very good at precision. If you see a dog in competition who’s heeling perfectly, has its head in the air, and sit perfectly parallel to their owners—I’m not good at developing that kind o precision. It doesn’t interest me, and I’m not naturally good at it. I’m sure that if I spent a lot of time on it, I would get better. But what I’m already good at is finding functional results. That process isn’t always entirely pretty and there isn’t much pizzazz to it, but it’s natural for me to help people in that way.
That’s just one example of this idea in action. You need to figure out for yourself where you’re strong, where you’re weak, and how you can double down on your strengths so that your weaknesses cease to be so. Hopefully that makes sense and will be a productive mental exercise for you!