Think You’re a Dog Training Expert? Think Again.
Picture this: You’re at a National IPO/Schutzhund Event, National Ring Sport Event or even at an AKC Championship and on the registration form, they ask you to rate your training or handling ability: beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert. It turns out that plenty of people end up checking “expert,” despite the fact that most, if not all, the guys and girls working as a professional in the K9 world (most who are way better than you, by the way) don’t even classify themselves as experts. Why not? Partly because even the best dog trainers know at least one trainer who is better than them, but partly too, because science.
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (or listened to Macklemore’s song 10,000 hours) you’re familiar with the idea that 10,000 hours of practice is what it takes to become an “expert” in a given field. But what does 10,000 hours of dog training look like–and what does it take to achieve it?
Becoming an expert Dog Trainer
Does every time you go out with your dog count as “practice” time? For me, honestly, it doesn’t–most days I’m just on autopilot and not really thinking about progression (other than having Fun perhaps). I would also argue that hiking for hours with your dog don’t fully count toward becoming an expert Dog training, since it’s not really the same thing (though again, the Fun Part carries over).
Our head trainer, Bart, lives in Yelm, WA and trains a lot of various dogs. For Bart, 2013 was a pretty good year, having logged about 1300 hours on the training; but at that rate, it’ll be 9 years before he gets to 10,000 hours of Dog Training time! (If you use a training log book like Bart or a similar training tracking method, you should be able to pull up annual training times to check your own progress.) 1300 hours in a year works out to 3,5+ hours per day, which is more than most weekend warriors can fit in. Even if you squeeze in 2 hours of Dog Training EVERY day of the year, you’re still looking at 14 years to become an expert dog trainer by Gladwell’s definition.
Still, 5% of respondents to a recent survey rated themselves “expert” Dog Trainers, while roughly the same percentage (6%) rated themselves beginners.
Becoming an expert on Dog Training
Quick! There was just a huge Dog Training explosion and Discovery Channel needs a “Dog Training Expert” to get on air to explain Dog Training to viewers. Will you get the call?
Perhaps. You probably like to read Dog Training articles since you’re reading this one, and maybe you waste an entire hour of your work day, 5 days a week catching up on Dog “news” and reading how-to articles. Great–you’ll be an expert on the subject in just 40 years. (In the days before the internet, that would have meant reading every Dog magazine cover to cover for decades.)
Now, if you work in the industry, it’s entirely possible to gain expert status much more quickly, though time spent entering numbers into spreadsheets, sending emails, etc. will need to be thrown out. But let’s be optimistic and say you spend half your work day actually thinking about and learning about Dog Training. The good news is you’ll be an expert in the field of Dog Training within about 10 years time.
Bill Gates give a wonderful explanation that it takes much more then just 10.000 hours!