The Measure of Success

I've been working with a little dog recently who was very worried by the world. Last week we had a session at the park where she pulled on the lead to get to good smells, she jumped up quite a bit and generally acted like the adolescent dog she is. To an outside observer it may well not have looked like a terribly successful session. But, for that dog, it was a glorious session - she stopped worrying about other things, was engaged with her person, curious about her environment and confident enough to explore it. Was that a successful training session? Absolutely. Is there still work to do? Absolutely. Does one negate the other? Absolutely not.

I was browsing through Facebook earlier (a place not known for kindness and thoughtfulness...) and came across someone judging the success of someone else's training but taking into account neither context nor background. If the training had been abusive or unethical in some way then the criticism might be valid. If it was sloppy or full of errors then perhaps some constructive feedback might be warranted. But judgement based solely on the critic's own personal, narrow, view of what success looks like is neither fair nor helpful.

If we define success as "the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose" then our starting point, the stage of the journey we are at and the goal of the training are all key factors in determining the success, or otherwise, of training. Those things will be different for different owners, different dogs and in different situations which means our individual measures of success will be different at any given moment and will vary over time. Success isn't the same for everyone...and that's ok!

I've recently started going to the gym & lifting weights. I have a great coach who is very skilled. Does the fact that I can lift a fraction of what others at the gym can lift make my training unsuccessful? Does my performance in comparison to someone else's make my coach a less skilled coach? No...of course it doesn't. It's unrealistic to apply the same measure of success to a novice, 49 year old, 60kg woman as you would to an experienced, 30-something, 100kg man. Genetics, past learning history, current capabilities and our goals are all variables that need to be taken into account.

And it's the same for our dogs...they are all coming from different places with different genetics, abilities and learning histories . What represents success for one dog - which might just be the ability to experience the world without being terrified - is not going to be success for another but that doesn't diminish the achievement. Define your own measure of success; adapt that as you progress and don't concern yourself about how other people define success for them. We're all on our own journey and are in competition with no-one.

Success isn't only about the end result. It's about where you started and what you've overcome.

Happy training x