The Matrix and dog training seem like two completely different topics, but there are some striking similarities that can be drawn. In The Matrix, Neo is presented with the choice of taking either a red or a blue pill. Taking the red pill represents a departure from the safety of the familiar and a journey into the unknown. Similarly, when training a dog, owners are presented with a choice – to give up when the training gets difficult or to push through and strive for success.
Training a dog can be a long and challenging process, but the rewards are immense. Like Neo, when owners decide to take the red pill and keep working with their dog, they embark on a journey of discovery. As owners learn more about their dogs and the best methods for them, they also learn more about themselves, and the bond between them and their canine companion grows stronger. Similarly, taking the blue pill in The Matrix may appear to be a safer and easier option, but ultimately it leads to a life of ignorance and complacency. Similarly, when training a dog, taking the easy way out and giving up can lead to a dog that is unruly, disobedient, making a lot of false positive alerts, and challenging to control.
You can learn from everybody
There are a lot of seminars and workshops in the K9 community. And you can always learn something from the speakers, participants, or observers. Like dogs, we learn by trial and error. You can pick up things you like, disagree with things you hear or see, or during these events, you can meet people who will match your ideas and philosophy. I need help listening to speakers to explain that their method or system is the best. Because in animal training, there is no one size fits all solution.
Like humans, animals also have different personalities and drives; some are intrinsic, and others are extrinsically motivated. Learning styles will play an essential role in training. They have their fears, anxiety, and experiences in life. Science explained that the dog could also have a positive or negative approach to everyday problems, so yes, dogs can see the world in ‘the glass is half empty, or it’s half full.’
Trainers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of using protocols, progression- or training plans. I’m glad to see that more trainers understand the power of data. There is more attention to positive training methods, and we dare to have dialogues around sensitive topics such as correction. And from the K9 community, there is more interest and respect for the scientist’s work. On top of all, it is fantastic to see the detection community embracing working double-blind and getting familiar with Odor Recognition Testing (ORT). I love that handlers dare do the ORT; that is like grabbing the red pill when someone offers you a choice.
Enjoy the journey towards your goal
I love to work with trainers and handlers who love to take a red pill because we can learn so much from each other, our dogs, scientists, and others. With respect for each other’s skills, efforts, energy, and improvements to be made for the canine community. It is essential to stay on track because, like dogs also, people can become distracted. Olympic champions told me they could quickly identify the ones in training who want to be successful and willing to give anything to succeed. When they arrive at the training site, they already know what to do. They have a training schedule, they have their goals, and they are strict on their criteria. And in pursuing their goal, they are not focussing on that gold medal. They are concentrating on the way toward that medal. They see every training session every day as a chance to improve themselves. And they enjoy the journey towards that goal, the gold medal. And at the moment, they need to perform on the highest platform; they are not busy with the finish. They are busy with every step, every strike, and every move that brings them closer to the ultimate goal. They know that every action towards that goal needs to be perfect.
Imagine that you are happy not only if your dog does that perfect jump, that astounding attack, or finds that hide but that you can focus and enjoy every step you make towards that goal. It already starts in the morning when you do your morning walk. It builds up when you attach the leash and travel to your training site. And you focus on every action you do, from preparing your reinforcers and training materials, focusing on your training session, visualizing every trial, switching off your phone, preparing your body posture, unleashing your dog, giving the start cue, and more. See all the details, become aware of all these details, and be in the moment! As the Olympic medal winners told me about their golden performance, they were not busy with the gold medal; they enjoyed every step towards that goal and came into a flow.
Training in a flow
To understand this flow, I like to describe its as a mental state in which a person performing an activity is completely immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment. This state is commonly referred to as being “in the zone” or “in the groove”. A sense of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the activity process characterize flow. It is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is closely related to the concept of intrinsic motivation, in which an action is done for its own sake rather than for external rewards. Flow has been found to lead to more outstanding performance, creativity, and satisfaction in athletes, artists, and business professionals. And yes, I have seen animal trainers in flow, and I’m happy to know I have been in flow and can bring myself back in this flow. Those are the ultimate training moments, but it is not only reachable in training. I have spent 25 years in special operations with many dogs I have trained and deployed myself. And after many of these operations, I often realized during the D-briefing that my dog and I were in a flow during the special operation.
What helps to keep track and get you in a flow is becoming aware of what you want, where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and that you can enjoy the journey towards these goals in life. It is one of the reasons why I came up with my mission statement for Simon Prins ACT!
- Empower humans and dogs using feedforward coaching to reach the next level in their training
- Bringing the K9 training world and scientists together by creating a common language, weeding out paradigms, spreading the training technology, and motivating to work together
- Provide the K9 world with innovative training tools to make their work more efficient, effective, and safe
I hope we meet each other somewhere on this planet. And yes, I will take my red pills with me if you have not decided yet and need some help. Stay open-minded and curious, and keep the dialogue open with each other. Don’t exclude others if you hear, see or read something but try to understand what is going on and if your feeling is right. I don’t mean you must be friends with everybody; I also stand for my values. But don’t judge too quickly by going with the mainstream opinion of others. Be curious about why you are judging and whether that is fair. Use your critical thinking, and even when emotions are blurring your review, try a stoic approach in that situation. That can help us handle a problem with another human by taking a logical, rational approach. This means understanding the other person’s perspective, considering the consequences of actions, and looking for a peaceful resolution.
Additionally, it involves developing an attitude of acceptance and understanding, as well as self-control, to ensure that emotions do not get in the way of finding a solution. Because we all know that not only we but also our dogs are susceptible to emotions. The good and positive emotions will boost our dog’s performance to greater heights, but negative emotions will ruin our training.
If you are interested in my workshops, check my agenda at www.simonprins.com. If you are looking for innovative training materials, check my webshop at ant to https://www.simonprins.com/shop/, and if you want to become a part of the Simon Prins ACT! community, join us for free on https://simon-s-school-25df.thinkific.com/communities/Q29tbXVuaXR5LTM2MzE0
Any questions or comments?
If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to send me an e-mail.