Did you know that chronic “bad hair days” cannot be fixed by adding a generic potion from a bottle?  It’s true.  To fix a hair problem you have to know what problem you’re trying to fix.  The reason is that there are two basic causes of hair problems – insufficient moisture or insufficient protein.  It just so happens that these are two sides of the same coin.  You need both,  in balance, and adding one will affect the other.

If your hair has a lack of protein and you try to solve that by dumping on moisturizer, you’ll make the problem worse, because your hair will become over moisturized.  The reverse is also true; if you choose a protein treatment but what your hair lacks for is moisture, then once again, you’ll either get nowhere or make your problem worse. Frustrating.

Which solution do you need?  To know the answer you’ll have to pay attention to your hair.  It doesn’t matter how much your friend loves her hair treatment; it won’t help unless you both share the same underlying problem.

So what should you do?  Learn about hair. You can’t get around it; there is no quick fix.  Apply that learning to your own head. Determine what you need right now – at this time.  Give it a shot and try the appropriate solution.  Consider the results.  Of course, be ready to change your assumptions at any moment, because if you go too far in one direction or the other then you’ll likely have to change course because “more” is not the answer.   And a shot of realism never hurt either; it’s not likely that you’re going to turn your stick straight, thin white girl hair into an Afro, but feel free to try.

The issue is not one of more or less, good or bad, right or wrong.  The issue is one of balance and realism. All the eye rolling and puffing from your best friend isn’t going to change the fact that what worked for her hair may, or may not, make any sense for you.

Hair.  Dogs.  Whatever.

When I teach, I would estimate that 90% of my time is spent helping the dog-handler team change their balance in a specific dimension.  It could be their balance of work to play, or skill building to acclimation, or drive building to control but in the end, the issue is rarely specific to skills.  To help them, I have to understand their unique situation and apply the appropriate solution at that point in time and for that team.

I know that for some people the word “balance” is about how much external control they choose to put on their dogs in training.  But not for me.  For me, balance is about what the handler is doing in training and what the dog actually needs to thrive.

If you’ve got a problem, take a moment to check your balance.

Do you need more drive building and energy in your training or more control and thoughtfulness?  Two sides of the same coin; you need both, but in balance!  Remember, it’s likely that your neighbor’s situation has nothing to do with your own, so if you’re following someone’s boxed solution, you’re going to struggle, either now or later.

Does your dog need more acclimation or structure in training?  Again – two sides of the same coin; apply the wrong one and you’ll make your situation increasingly worse.  (Here’s a hint:  Soft, lower drive, and fearful dogs almost always need to acclimate and curious or more driven dogs offer more choices to the handler).

If your balance is off then you may well be solving a problem that doesn’t exist, failing to progress, or worse, creating a new one.

The next time you’re struggling with your training, try this:  Forget about training techniques, step back, and take a look at your underlying balance.  Ignore your friends who are prone to “helpfully” offering advice, regardless of whether you actually asked for their input.  What does your dog need, at root, to improve the situation?  Are you and your dog on the same team?  Playing the same game?  Or is your dog busy thinking about the squirrels in the tree while you’re trying to solve your retrieve problem? If so, you don’t actually have a retrieve problem; you have an engagement problem. Fix that and the retrieve problem may well solve itself.

Excellent techniques are wonderful, but they’ll only take you so far if balance isn’t there.

Oh yeah, and realism.  I referenced it above, but we’ll hold off on that topic.  That’s a blog for another day.

If you want to learn more about balance in relation to the topic of Play, come join me at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy (FDSA).  I’m teaching Relationship Building Through Play and class starts on April 1st.

Unlike hair, the interplay between dogs and humans can create many different issues with balance; indeed it can become complicated really quickly and rarely is there a quick fix.  Since a class on building control probably won’t be very useful if your dog has no desire to even get out of the crate, ask me if you need help getting started with the right class for you.  Send me a note through facebook or FDSA’s “people” link.