* [Question] – When you hit a rough spot in your training [not sure how to get the behaviour/s you want and/or if you are up for the challenging training task ahead] – how does this make you feel?
[Audrey’s – Answer] There are two answers to this question. There is a “before ATA” and an “after ATA”.
Before ATA, when I would hit a rough spot in my training, I tended to quit because I would feel defeated. I would tell myself that I was just not a good enough trainer to get through it. I was in a “fixed mindset”.
After ATA, when I hit a rough spot in my training, I see this as an opportunity for learning and developing my training skills. I am not saying it is always easy, but I now aspire to cultivate a “growth mindset”, – which is something I learned through ATA. This way, I feel much better about myself as a trainer despite the training challenges I might be facing.
* [Question] How does your membership with Animal Training Academy help you overcome these challenges?
[Audrey’s – Answer] I would name two things.
The first thing is that I was introduced to Sarah Owings’ training rubric through ATA. Well, that is not exactly true. I was first introduced to it through the Cyberscent course (which is instructed by both Sarah Owings and Helix Fairweather). However, it is through the ATA members only content featuring Sarah and Ryan [Cartlidge] that I fully grasped its power. Before, I was using it strictly in the context of the Cyberscent course. Now, I apply it to all of my training, and it’s been a game changer!
For context, this rubric asks 3 questions (I might be paraphrasing them, but the essence is there):
1. What are things that you (the trainer) did well?
2. What are things that went well for your learner?
3. What is your next approximation?
Why was this a gamer changer for me? Remember my answer to the previous question, where I would quit when faced with a rough spot in my training… That was because I could only see what was going wrong in my training sessions. With the repeated use of this rubric, I am now able to see what is going well and put a stop to the self-criticism.
The second thing is the ATA community. Whenever I am not sure on how I can overcome a training challenge, I know I can turn to the ATA community for help with brainstorming solutions. Not only that, but the ATA community is incredibly supportive, empathic and caring. It truly feels like a safe space to share my training journey. The ATA community is also incredibly inspiring. People are sharing their own training journey and it is a good reminder that you are not alone: everyone struggles from time to time!
Finally, through the ATA community, I met like-minded people who are always willing to listen and troubleshoot ideas with me. On this point, I want to give a shoutout to Anaïs Morel, fellow ATA member, because I truly enjoy her friendship and geeking out with her!
* [Question] Can you give an example from your time as an ATA member when you got through a tough spot – and share what results you achieved?
[Audrey’s Answer] This isn’t exactly training related, but it is a thing that the ATA community really helped me with. In 2021, I started a French-speaking podcast called “Comprendre son chien” (which translates into “Understanding your dog”). For the first season, I did interviews with professional dog trainers on different topics. In 2022, for the second season, I decided to challenge myself and record solo episodes where I am sharing my own experiences dealing with my reactive dog and the things I am learning through this journey.
I don’t identify as a professional dog trainer (yet), so I felt like an impostor to be publicly speaking on dog behaviour. I was thinking: “who am I to be speaking about these topics?”. But I was pushing through this discomfort and going forward with my project… until I received a somewhat negative (but not mean) comment on a video I had posted on my podcast page. As insecure as I was, I was crushed. The negative thought went spiralling in my head. I was a few clicks away from deleting the whole thing and make the podcast disappear from the Web because, in my head, I was clearly not worthy of having such a platform.
This might sound dramatic to some, but this is what living with anxiety can be like. Luckily, I gathered the courage to share this experience and my feelings about it with the ATA community. I cannot describe the immense wave of love and support I have received from ATA members! It was truly uplifting. Through their kind and supportive words, the ATA community helped me
stick to my solo podcast project. And I am truly glad I did. Why? Because I feel this format has a different impact on my listeners. I had a few people write to me that these solo episodes made them reflect on how they perceive their relationship with their dog, but also with other human beings. And I am sincerely grateful for the ATA community because I don’t know if I would have persisted if I didn’t have a community like this to inspire me.
* [Question] As a positive reinforcement Ripple Maker, what do you have to share with others who might hit rough spots in their training and feel a bit alone and lost as to how to proceed?
[Audrey’s Answer] Firstly, try out Sarah’s Owings training rubric! Try to identify what you and your learner are doing well despite the challenges you may face. It can be hard at first because we are so used to criticizing the things we are doing wrong. But once you get the hang of it, it is like having a brand-new pair of glasses! Secondly, find your tribe! Seek out people who share the same training values as you. It can be ATA or any other community, but find a way to connect with people with whom you feel safe sharing your training journey.
Finally, don’t shy away from being vulnerable about how you feel when you hit rough spots. Sharing stories of struggles and failures can be useful to other people. When people only share their successes, we are under the impression that we are the only ones who hit rough spots but is not the reality! Let’s make sharing our challenges and failures more mainstream.