Learning is Hard Sometimes

Learning a new mechanical skill is hard and can be an incredibly humbling experience. I really think ALL trainers should break out of their box and take a class where they don’t already have most/all of the skills (perhaps some of the people who inspired yesterday’s post should give it a shot). It serves as a fantastic reminder of what some of our novice student handlers may be feeling as we ask them to learn a new skill.

I earned my Master’s Degree in education at school that focuses on child-centered learning/progressive education. We spent an amazing amount of time on contemplating education in the big picture and how children learn in the big picture. It was a very compassionate way to look at education. During my second year of grad-school we had an activity where we learned a new skill–most everyone had struggles somewhere along the line and the whole point was remind us that sometimes learning a something new can be really difficult. Students often have those same feelings of “I’ll never learn this” and it’s often resolved by an instructor explaining it a new way, showing it another time, or walking the student through it step by step. It’s really eye opening to be reminded what it feels like to be learning a new skill.

This post has been inspired by my participation in a new agility class that is pushing me as a learner. The class is exactly what I was looking for in an agility class–LOTS of handling skill practice and very focused work on mini-courses. These are two areas that I haven’t really worked before in my agility training with the dogs so it’s really learning something brand new. It’s been quite the eye opening experience.

It’s been really challenging for me to think about my footwork, think about my positioning, cuing Rio, reinforcing Rio, and making corrections as directed by the instructor. Holy lots-to-think-about Batman! Rio often ‘suffers’ through because after I’m focusing on my footwork, my positioning, my speed and the tips from the instructor, I often forget to reinforce him. His rate of reinforcement is super low and he certainly lets me know. Rio is simply a much faster learner than me and it shows. Although I’m getting better and I THINK I’m getting better at making corrections to my movements/etc., it’s still a lot to think about.

Being in this position of learning new skills has really given me a renewed sense of patience and understanding for my students. I don’t think I’ve ever really been impatient with them, but it’s good to be reminded how it feels to learn something new.

When’s the last time you learned something new?

  1. Had to chuckle at this one – Tucker & Phoebe were always far better agility students than I ever was!

  2. I really do think that a huge reason our dogs learn faster than we do is clicker training.. When a skilled TagTeacher tags me in something, the skill is acquired almost immediately, and the retention is fantastic..

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