How do I define training success? Is it winning a competition? Is it having a dog that responds to every cue first time or executes every behaviour perfectly? Is it a dog that always waits for a cue before offering any behaviour?
To me training success is about having a switched-on, fully engaged and happy learner. Training success is about enjoying every moment you work with your dog, mistakes and all. Training success is having a dog who offers behaviours freely, because they are a partner and active participant in the training process.
Yesterday was a good reminder of what is important to me as a trainer as I filmed Rosie and Cruz's entries into the Rally Free World Wide Event. Their rounds were not perfect: Rosie completely missed the back away exercise (she really didn't know what I wanted for that particular exercise in that context - it is one I need to train a lot more) and Cruz anticipated his roll over in the send to mat free choice move. I used too many hand and body posture cues which I'll no doubt be docked for....
Yet I came home from this session extremely content and happy. Why? Because both dogs were fully engaged and enthusiastic. Both gave it their all. Both LOVED the session and we chose to stop while they were still having fun, rather than repeat the course endlessly until they were tired and "over it". I am a perfectionist and probably slightly OCD (I think many trainers are 😉), so learning to accept less than perfect in training doesn't come easy. But it is a lesson I have learned through positive reinforcement training. Training is not just about getting it perfect or being the best. It is about building relationship and having fun with your canine partner. The more enjoyment you find together, the more you will be able to achieve from a technical point of view, because the trust and willingness to try will always be there.