My first exposure to visualization came when I was a young man playing basketball and my father was my coach at the time. He must have read some article about visualization saying how great athletes were using visualization techniques to improve, because I clearly remember him telling me that if I couldn’t get to a basketball hoop, I should practice shooting free-throws in my head. That I should imagine setting myself at the free throw line, taking a couple of practice dribbles while looking at the hoop, and then going through the motion of what a perfect free throw looked like in my head.
Being a typical pre-teen, I blew him off and told him he sounded like a crazy person.
As with much of my dad’s advice that I thought was stupid at the time, I have to tell him now as an adult that he was right about a lot more than I gave him credit for.
Part of what makes an excellent pack leader or dog trainer is the ability to stay on an even keel. That skill comes from a combination of a lot of experience and practice, but also the ability to effectively visualize what success looks like.
Instead of merely reacting and putting out fires as they arise, I would challenge you instead to visualize what success with your dog’s behavior would actually look like? Visualize with me if you will… Someone knocks on the door and then what? If you’re visualizing the past you can see your dog running around barking his head off while you chase him around squirting him with a water bottle. If you visualize success, you must be more detail oriented. Do you send your dog calmly to a “place” while you walk over to meet the guest? Does your dog come with you to the door and then sit beside you as your guest comes in? Does your dog ignore the door and go on with his day?
Visualize whichever one looks perfect to you and engineer the solution from there. What practice do you need to do? What actions do you have to take when someone is actually there knocking? If you need to make a correction, how are you prepared to do so effectively with a calm mind?
That’s just one example, but like with a lot of good advice, it applies to virtually anything. So anything that is causing you stress in life or in dog training, I encourage you to visualize what you want it to look like – over and over again if possible – and start building the life you want for yourself and your dog from there.
See it. Then achieve it.
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