This post is more personal than usual. It’s about my own challenges… as a student. I guess you could say I play the role of the dog here. The tables have turned. I am the trainee taking lessons from others and I wish I was as comfortable with driving as I am with working with people and their dogs. I have been struggling with the road since early 2009 when we moved to Brooklyn and was given an old clunker by my aunt. The irony is that I’ve held a license for over 10 years and now own a car, but can hardly operate it without getting overwhelmed and frustrated. That’s because I, like many teenagers, got a license, and then being a native Manhattanite, never used it until I moved out to the boroughs.
I wish someone could clicker train me to drive! Sigh!
In this process, I’ve really learned to empathize with my clients. Boy, it can be really difficult to learn a new skill when the environment you are working in is so distracting. You can hardly be set up to succeed sometimes. I wish there was a shaping program out there designed for new drivers in New York City where every movement is methodically broken down and you build one skill on top of the other. Unfortunately, the program I’ve got to deal with seems more along the lines of flooding. Sink or swim, I have to get on the road, drive, and learn to maneuver my car through potholes, crazy taxi drivers, double parked cars, and people honking behind me to get me to move faster. It has been a tough ride so far. No pun intended.
The morals of this story: Learning can be hard for both canines and humans. Whenever possible, set your student up to succeed and build on small successes rather than throwing your student into the deep end. Have patience! Learning to drive in the boonies would be easier, just like working with a reactive dog would be easier in the suburbs. Practice, practice, practice. Breathe…