Choose a successful breed? Choose a puppy from agility lines? Go to every training workshop you can get to (regardless of what handling system/ training methodology they use)?
Actually it's something much simpler. Learn how to be a better dog trainer, be prepared to fail and recognise that your dog will only ever tell you the truth when it comes to their understanding of what you're trying to teach. Even if that might be annoying or inconvenient ;)
Today I was fascinated by something a newbie said to me which she had been told by another trainer she had worked with. She had been told that despite some grid work her dog 'just didn't care about keeping the poles up', as if that was the end of that. I'm glad she turned up so that she could learn that's not how it needs to be.
Can I let you in on a secret? My dogs don't keep poles up because they were born caring about them staying up when they jump them. Anymore than they were born caring about stopping on the end of contacts or getting into difficult weave entries. Oh if only! ;)
They keep poles up when they're jumping because I educated them to understand that even when they are extremely excited doing agility, keeping the poles up is very important to me.
Dogs care about what they find reinforcing. They care about what earns them reward.
The difference between the handler I met today and the handlers I teach regularly is that they understand that simple but crucial fact - reinforcement builds behaviour.
My dogs and the dogs I teach receive lavish amounts of reinforcement (the choice of which varies from dog to dog) for what we want them to do, and when they make mistakes we OWN them and make it our business to explain things more clearly.
They don't get blamed for our sloppy training or the fact we didn't explain it better. Actually it's really common for me to hear the handlers I teach apologising to their dogs for their mistakes when things go wrong - because they get the fact that their dogs are a product of their abilities as trainers.
Training is a mechanical skill. We get better at things when we practice them, and we should keep track of our progress.
Because if you find that you're not getting further improvement you might want to look more closely at how you're explaining things to your dog. We don't want to rehearse poor training mechanics!
The cause of most problems tends to be that we expect too much from our dogs in one go rather than giving them just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle at a time instead of the whole box.
And training in a logical sequence that the dog can understand is OUR responsibility, not theirs.
If your dog is being labelled as 'thoughtless', 'careless' or 'stubborn' please reconsider who you are training with, because I would guess they're receiving those labels because the person creating them has run out of useful suggestions.
Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds.
Norman Vincent Peale
There is immense satisfaction to be found in working out the solution to a problem. And the knowledge you gain from it will serve you for every dog you work with in the future.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to guide the handlers of many 'problem' dogs as I have a lot of interesting seeds to collect :)
Today I am grateful for the seeds my own dogs and those I work with have given me over the years I have been teaching. They have created a beautiful, flourishing training school which is a joy to teach in and which inspires me on a daily basis :)