By Claudia Frank

Return to Herding Central

When I was fifteen, I got my first dog from the humane society and decided I would “train” him. I quickly enrolled in obedience classes. This was the “pre” dog attention era when people marveled that some dogs looked to their trainers but no one yet realized this could be taught. Even with good instruction for the time, it quickly become apparent to me that if I was going move forward I was going to have to get additional information besides the classes. I started watching accomplished trainers working their dogs, and reading everything I could.

Then came the dawn of the “training clinic.” Here at last was good concentrated training information in a situation where the new techniques could be tried on ones own dog. First it was how to “teach” the exercises and later how to “shave” points through precision and handling. Obedience “greats” came forward and graciously shared their experiences for the betterment of the sport. Some of these top competitors expanded their offerings to provide week long exposures to their methods and/or gave private, one on one, instruction to bring a handler and his dog to the top form of “teamwork.” I participated in as many of these extended clinics and private lessons as I could possibly arrange. When Instructors would say this or that is what you need to do. I went home and did it. After all, I had paid them for their expert advice. My training knowledge and competition successes blossomed as I moved through a series of willing canine companions.

As I became comfortable training my own dogs, I began sharing the enjoyment of having a trained companion with others and started extending my search for training information to learning instructional techniques for dog classes. Trying to be a good instructor was a satisfying goal. I enjoyed bringing people and their dogs in harmony - helping people understand and train heir dogs and seeing their dogs’ respond to these efforts.

It was during my time as an instructor that I realized how counterproductive and demoralizing it was when the students used the words “Yes, but...”

“Yes, but....” means you are taking my instructions and putting them aside. I end up spending my time (and yours) trying to validate the techniques I’m providing for you rather than helping you toward your goals.

“Yes, but... “Enables you to start a list of EXCUSES why you cannot perform as requested. As an instructor I tell my students that I do not want to hear “Yes, but...” If they do not wish to take my suggestions and apply them, that is their choice but no “Yes, buts...”

When I became involved with stockdog training I discovered that the “Yes, but...” syndrome was not just an obedience phenomena. Beginner stockdog trainers would read books, watch videos, gain some background information and then choose an instructor. Rather than listening to what the experienced instructor told them they countered every suggestion with reasons why they couldn’t possibly do what was asked of them.

To succeed, you must consider the strengths and weaknesses of you and your dog then set a goal. If you REALLY are determined to reach your goal, you will tackle all the steps necessary to success with “Yes, I can” rather than “Yes, but...” Certainly there are times when some of your expectations are totally unrealistic. At those times, you have to adjust your goal to an obtainable level, rather than make excuses for your inability to progress.

Competent herding instructors often share their knowledge after other commitments so their availability for instruction may be limited. What about the beginner stockdog student whose goal is a winning trained dog, but can only take lesson every other Tuesday at 2 p.m.? When an instructor tries to accommodate your lesson during the coolest part of the day and offers 6 a.m., do you respond, “Yes, I want a trained dog, but...”?

In addition to regular instruction, a beginner needs to practice frequently and go to a variety of locations. The handler and dog have to get comfortable working around livestock, working together and using and increasing their stock handling skills. If you wish to succeed at training a stockdog but cannot find a way to practice, you should re-think your goals rather than saying,”Yes, but...”

If you have access to stock then perhaps your excuses are, “Yes, but I only have four head,” “only an acre of land,” and on and on. There are always ways to solve problems if you REALLY want to succeed. How about responding to your instructor’s suggestions with “Yes, I can!” You may not be an instant performer; however with much thought, practice and desire you will move in the right direction.

I often find that I must rearrange my way of thinking to be able to say “Yes, I can.” I may also need to teach my dog a new skill before I can follow an instructor’s advice. Years ago, when I was working with an older Sheltie under the instruction of a Border Collie trainer, I was often told that certain training steps must be followed or taught. Many times my Sheltie and I had to “build bridges” between the outlined steps.

Remember, an instructor's expert advice may benefit you, but a “Yes, but...” will only put you on the road to failure.

Page Updated 11/17/2008

Home | Club Info | Borderlines | Border Recorder | Breed Info | RescueEvents | Programs | Contact Us | Top

The Border Collie Society of America, Inc. was founded in April 1993.  This site is owned by the Border Collie Society of America, Inc. and was established 12.94.