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How Good is Good Enough?

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I’m a good trainer.  I am not a great trainer.

A great trainer sets up training plans in advance, splits behavior into tiny bits, keeps records of what they are doing, and in all likelihood – progresses more quickly than I do.

So I’m working on getting better, but in the meantime I don’t really have a problem, because what I AM good at is reading the dog in front of me and as a result, I get away with my occasional “less than stellar” training.  My dogs rarely opt out, even when what I have to offer is fairly low value.  That’s because I’m good enough for each dog that I train. Stress is kept low in training.  I’m fun to be with.  My dogs like me and as a result, it’s worth their while to play my games, even when I’m messing things up.   I don’t pay enough attention to being a great trainer so I have to pay attention to my dog.  Works for us.  Good enough.

How good does one have to be to be “good enough?”

You need to be “good enough” that your dog wants to be there with you, even when you’re muddling along at a fairly low level of competence.  Muddling along is not a problem if your dog chooses to muddle along with you.

When your dog begins to exhibit signs of distress then it’s time to stop and reconsider. Stress could be leaving, exhibiting stress signals, or becoming frantic or noisy.  You’re not being good enough.  At least not at this moment in time.

Good enough means that your dog is watching you with a clear head and positive body language.  Not because your dog is hungry and you’re holding the food.  Not because you have your dog on a leash and he can’t get away.  Not because your dog is OCD for a tug or ball, and he simply cannot opt out no matter how much stress he is experiencing.

“Good enough” is up to the dog.  Your “good enough” with one dog might be downright “under no circumstances” for another dog.

It doesn’t matter why your dog is opting out.  If you use physical corrections in training and your dog would rather not train with you then you’re not being good enough.  Stop and create a new plan.  If you use force free training and your dog is getting whiny with frustration, you’re not being good enough.  Stop and create a new plan.  Regardless of the reason for your dog’s preference to opt out, physical or mental distress, you’re not good enough.

Your dog decides.  Fortunately for us humans, our dogs are frequently quite tolerant of our muddling, and will cheerfully muddle along with us.  But if your dog has other ideas, then see what you can do to rise to the occasion.

If you have a dog with a clear head, a stable temperament and an innate love of work, you may find yourself doing quite well with your dog in spite of your technically poor training – and that’s fine.  That’s good enough.  And if you have a dog with a trigger fuse, an unstable temperament and the working drives of a cat, then your training is about to take a quantum leap.




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.

11 responses »

  1. I love your posts. I think you are a great trainer.😊 You sure helped Norman and me. Ann

    Sent from my iPhone. Please enjoy typos & iPhone autocorrections!


  2. The most important part of your post is you are good at reading the dog in front of you. Can’t be bothered with all the theory, if you are reading your dog right then you have a relationship with your dog. Missing in so many folks training these days. Enjoy your blogs. Enjoy your dogs.

  3. Catherine Mills

    She really nails it!

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Kathleen Corum

    I think I’d even go one further…. if you’re satisfied with your results and you and the dog are both having fun, that’s success. Probably even with no real results by someone else’s standards.

  5. I think I’d even go one further…. if you’re satisfied with your results and you and the dog are both having fun, that’s success. It’s success even if your results are not success by someone else’s standards.

  6. Mireille MARTI

    AS usual a great and inspiring post ! thank you so much to be that generous !

  7. Loved this! I guess I am having a little trouble with the only time I see some frustration and whininess is change of positions so I’m not sure what to do about it…I really hadn’t looked at it as a problem until I read this…

    • Working drive of cats – hahaha – that’s my dog or better said an undercover cat 😊 So funny, really, and so true. Learned so much due to my dog and she pushes me to new limits, everyday. What I like about you is that you are so relaxed in this human/ trainer -dog/student relationship. Everywhere you look you see things like “one mistake can mean a lifetime mistake”, don’t alow this and never do that, but you? “Oh well, I’m might treat that too because you are trying ” 😊. Following your blog and videos just helps me to find my peace in this crazy training world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience and thank you for allowing us to more learning possibilities. Thanks to you, my relationship with my dog has improved and definitely we are more relaxed. THANK YOU !!!

  8. Virginia Van Giesen

    I love this. My problems are always with me! My pups are willing, one more than the other..

  9. Pingback: How Good is Good Enough? – Dogs On The Ball!

  10. Virginia Van Giesen

    I keep reading this and come up with different ideas every time! I believe my dog training has become more recreational than anything else, and plays the biggest role in keeping me off of the couch….I really need this and need someone to give me a good kick in the fanny too get me going again!


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