Why you should strive for Excellence rather than Perfection

The good thing about training a dog for work is that he doesn’t need to be perfect.

Shepherds used to train their dogs for work, and the trials were secondary; dogs would be polished up so they could compete with excellence, but work was the priority.

Today, most train for trials first, and the work is an afterthought.

When a dog is doing practical work, he can make mistakes and learn through experience with guidance from the handler, until he understands the task. This allows the dog to develop without a lot of pressure before he’s mentally able to handle it.

With most people now training for trialing, some make the mistake of striving for perfection, rather than excellence.

“Perfection” doesn’t allow room for dogs to make mistakes and work things out on their own.

Those who strive for excellence understand that mistakes are inevitable and part of the path to learning and improvement, while perfectionists tend to see mistakes as failures.

Excellence we can reach for with effort, practice, and persistence. But pursuing perfection sets an impossibly high standard, not only for us but also for our dogs.

Some ideas perfectionists pursue is for their dogs to: work at the perfect distance off sheep, drill them for the perfect walk, make sure every flank is perfectly square, to name a few.

The problem with this, is assuming it is the same for all dogs- instead of making adjustments for a dogs individual type and amount of ‘eye’, directness, presence, excitability, temperament, etc.

Often these handlers have young dogs that “never really got keen enough to train” (when it was the initial over training that caused it) or an open dog that flanks rather than walks up, lacks enthusiasm for shedding, stopping running sheep, enjoying turning back, or other.

If you require perfection you can diminish your dogs spirit and their ultimate potential.

Perfectionists may sometimes gain 2-6 months at the start of their young dogs career, but often lose years at the end of it.

Dogs, and trainers alike, learn from being allowed to make mistakes, and, in turn, learning from those mistakes will pave the way for excellence.

“Perfection is the enemy of progress” -Winston Churchill


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