Seeing progress, no matter how small.

A sweet and very successful boy.  :)

Can you see it?  That tiny little step of success?  A step so small that it might be barely visible, to anyone other than you of course.  I often talk about baby steps; taking small little steps in the direction of a goal.  No matter what that goal is, baby steps are the best way to get there.  But our human nature often kicks in and we can't wait, we grow impatient; we crave success, big success.  That desire for monumental achievement can be the very thing that causes failure.  

Over the years I have become a huge observer of canine behavior.  A fallout of this behavior of mine is watching human behavior.  Human behavior is another window into canine behavior.  The smallest step from a human can create a chain reaction in their canine.  I am always watching.  I remember watching an obedience class that was not mine.  I was there to photograph, not to teach which is not an easy thing for me.  One of the people and their dog were having a difficult time with the stay.  I could clearly see the problem but the "official" trainer could not.  The owner was making too many movements which was confusing the dog.  Did she want him to come, stay or what?  He wasn't sure so he kept breaking his stay.  

The difference between success and failure can be a gesture or behavior from us; so small that we would probably think that it carries with it, no value.  But dogs are master body language readers; they far exceed our ability in that department.  When I watch a canine/human team I do so with an eagle eye.  I observe the canine, the human and the two as one.  One woman who I was working with was having problems with signals.  Her dog, she said "was just not getting it."  I put them through there paces and quickly saw the problem.  "Stop moving your body," I told her.  She was motioning with her body when she gave verbal cues along with the hand signal so that when she dropped the verbal and the body movement, the cue was too different.  By eliminating the body movement when she gave the verbal cue and hand signal the dog could then succeed in learning just the hand signal.  

Another time when a dog was most definitely progressing successfully; an owner missed the progress.  She was growing frustrated at the lack of progress when I took a moment to break it down.  We were attempting to stop an obsessive behavior of attacking the refrigerator every time someone got ice.  The dog continued to run into the kitchen but had stopped hurling itself at the refrigerator.  It continued to bark in a frenzy but did not jump on the fridge, it was huge.  She couldn't see it because she wanted complete success, not just a step.  After pointing it out she was quite happy.  

Pay attention, watch the for the smallest of steps.  That is with regard to training and rehabilitating.  Tiny little steps in one direction or the other hold a huge amount of information.  A fraction of a step backwards means that something is being done wrong.  For the tiny positive steps, don't miss them because you are looking for the big bang result.  The smaller the step to success, the more solid and lasting the success will be.