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Definition of Insanity

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What is the Definition of Insanity?

We all know this one.

“Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein

I’m thinking about this, because a person I know, who clearly loves her dog and thinks she is doing right by him, is giving me pause to reflect on what makes us stick to training methods that are perceived as “tried and true” when the method of choice has been most obviously tried and yet is certainly not true.  At least not for this dog.

In short – it’s not working.

She’s a nice lady; I like her a lot.  She also has a nice dog – anxious, but nice.  And her dog leaves her in training.  Runs amuck!  For three years this has been happening.  Three years!

She sees conscious disobedience, and thirty years of “experience” has taught her exactly one way to handle disobedience – set him up and then correct him for failure.  Thirty years of focusing on conscious behavior has also made her totally unable to see that the real issue has nothing to do with conscious behavior at all – but that’s not the point of this post.

When is it time to make a change?  When is it time to acknowledge that what you’re doing is not working?  When is it time to step back and look at the problem from a new angle?

If what you’re doing causes no harm to you, the dog, or others,  but adds no value, then…whatever. If it were one of my dogs and I really cared about creating change, I’d sure be looking at my technique, but if you don’t and if you and the dog have reached a happy enough place, then that’s your choice.

If what you are doing DOES cause harm to either you, your dog or to others, but your choices are not improving your situation, then explain this to me: Why do you have so little regard for your well being or the well being of others?  Is your dog scaring you?  Scaring other people or dogs?   A risk that others feel the need to go out of their way to avoid?

Is your solution scaring or hurting your dog?  Shouldn’t your dog’s opinion matter?  It’s not like he volunteered for your choice of training methods.

It doesn’t matter if you’re “working on it;” if you’re not progressing over a significant period of time and you’re causing harm, then it’s time to change something, or maybe even…give up!  Your choices are to change your strategy or to walk away, not to subject others, possibly including your dog but possibly not, to your good  intentions.

At some point, you need to take stock!  Ask yourself – might there be another way to solve this challenge?  Might I be reading the situation all wrong?  Can my dog do better?  And if not, is there anything that I can do to help the situation?

It’s ok to get it wrong.  But it’s equally important to take stock of your situation on occasion.  So; what you’re doing is not working.  What do you plan to do now?

I think Albert Einstein was simply wrong.  Doing the same thing over and over is human nature; not the definition of insanity.  We are loathe to change, especially if a method has worked in the past on other dogs.  But as humans, we also have the option to reflect on our choices, take stock, and make different decisions.

Admittedly, new decisions might feel totally foreign and uncomfortable.  Then again…what you’re doing is not working.

If you think I just described you, then why not make today the day you take stock?   Stop hurting your dog. Or stop letting your dog hurt you.  Or stop letting your dog hurt someone else.  Or stop wasting your time if you’re not hurting anyone but making no progress at all.

Three years.  Three years and no change to the dog’s behavior.  Three years, no change to the dog’s behavior, and no change to the handler’s choice of method.

Mind boggling.

On another note, registration has begun for the October 1st term at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.  29 classes to choose from; take a look and join us!  Only $65 for a bronze subscription.  I’m teaching heeling games and relationship building through play, and would love to have you!

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

6 responses »

  1. Yes! I’ve lost count the number of times a client has come to me and my response to their long list of this and that ends up, “So, how is that working for you?” From there they are sometimes ready to change and try something different, sometimes they aren’t there yet. I’ve found a lot of times, the answer to that question means the person has to be willing to take responsibility for their role in all of it and stop putting blame and labels on the dog, which can be difficult for some.

  2. Amen, thank you for your honest post!

  3. So…. I see myself in this blog. Not like the example you talked about. It’s like this- I love my dog and he is an awesome partner. He loves to train and we always have a great time when we are playing/working. We always have fun- he makes me laugh, and he is always ready to try anything, because our relationship is solid. Anything I choose to work on is his favorite exercise- as long as we are doing something together, he is in heaven.
    The problem pops up when it comes to actually competing, and I am the partner who fails to keep my half of the bargain. I stress under the pressure of an actual trail. He feels my anxiety, and he reacts to the pressure I am feeling. He always tries the best he can under these circumstances, and he does an amazing job of trying to figure out why things feel off. We trialed hard at our National Specially, and we held it together, but it wasn’t really really fun for either of us. So what do you tell a person like me, who knows it’s not the dog’s fault? Of course, I am back to FDSA to fix our relationship. I’m the one that needs fixing. Any ideas?

    • are you on the FB alumni list? Could place to post questions like this and participate in conversation with likeminded folks….

      The full name is Fenzi Dog Sports Academy Alumni

    • Hi ameyeran, there is a class that FENZI offers that does help with stress in competition. I took the class and it helped me focus more and stress less. It’s called “Its All In Your Head”.


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