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Are you trying to learn to knit at a Death Metal concert?

When it comes to learning a new skill, it can take a lot of concentration and weird face pulling (I'm looking at you, tongue out of the corner of your mouth people) while you develop the skill to the level of proficiency you desire.  If you think about that learning process, what environment is it that you most want to be in while you learn? 

Take knitting, for example. 

That can seem like an intimidating and intricate thing to master from scratch: learning to cast on, know your knit from your purl… even the physical mechanics of holding and then stitching with the needles!  Chances are you want to sit yourself down in your room, where it’s quiet and practice each part of the process with minimal distractions. 

Now look at dog training and the new skill you are trying to learn AND teach to your dog at the same time.  Where would that skill be best built a foundation on?  Because I see time after time, people trying to train their dogs in a place where there are lots of things going on, distractions and interruptions and people, oh so (NOT) helpfully interrupting you to offer their input.

You’re not learning to knit at home anymore.  You are trying to at a death metal concert.  There’s pyrotechnics going off, people head banging, the floor vibrating with the lead singers screaming.  Suddenly trying to keep a stitch count is a major struggle.  You’re trying to remember what the process is, but then another explosion goes off and you lost track.

Going to the local dog park, for example, to learn a new skill, like loose lead walking is like trying to learn to knit at a death metal concert.  You and your dog are going to get frustrated, confused and struggle to focus while everything is going on around you.

Start at home, in a quiet room, and create the skill and saliency where you can both focus your full brain power of how to move, how to reward, how to pick the process apart into easy chunks.  Learn to enjoy the training and build confidence in yourself.

And then, when you’re ready, head on out to those distracting places and put your skills to the test.  You will notice a decline in proficiency at first, while you acclimatise to the new situation, but you have built up reinforcement history, you have mind and muscle memory.  You got this!  Suddenly the idea of taking your scarf project to see Cannibal Corpse, isn’t such an intimidating task, but one you can do, heading banging away while you knit one, purl one.

So, if you are struggling to teach and learn a dog training skill, consider this: are you trying to learn to knit at a death metal concert?


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