I'm not really directing that last at anyone that might be reading this post. I am pretty sure there are fewer really gigantic egos in my world than there are in many other types of dog training. And that is a good thing. If you don't have a huge ego, you are always free to ask for help. Two things that I really value are talking out sticky training problems and asking other trainers for feedback. Those two things would be so much harder if a big ego was in the way, forcing me to pretend to myself that I was the best trainer in the world and couldn't possibly have anything to learn from anyone. I think I have something to learn from just about everyone. If nothing else, I can learn what I DON'T want to do, and why.
I'm not saying that it's good to feel like you don't know anything either. Far from it. I did that for years and it was miserable. I always keep a running tally in my head of things I think I have developed pretty good skills with and things that still need work. It is an awesome feeling to make progress or gain new understanding on one of the things that needs work. I remember when that happened to me with training dogs to get on escalators, many years ago. I suddenly understood, after putting dozens of dogs on escalators, that there is a moment when you and the dog are poised at the bottom of the escalator looking up and the dog is like, Oh-my-God-what-IS-that-thing and you have a split second to either let the dog pull away from it and reinforce his initial concern about it by putting distance between himself and the thing he's afraid of, OR ELSE tell him calmly, "We're getting on, no big deal, buddy," and putting him on, taking away the option to get away. Ever since I discovered that -- and people certainly tried to teach me, but it was never really in my head as something I truly understood -- I have not had any trouble with escalators at all. Dogs really vary in their initial comfort levels with escalators but I have never yet had one that wasn't boarding and riding calmly by the end of training. So that is a perfect example of one exercise where I remember how amazing it felt when I GOT IT. And the memory of that feeling is one of the many things that motivates me to keep hacking away at the things I don't fully get yet. Always pursuing and collecting the "Ah-ha" moments.
No one will ever be perfect at this job and no one will ever be able to predict with 100% certainty how a dog, or a dog-handler team, for that matter, will function in the real world. But if we try our best at all times, and accept that sometimes we will be wrong, but over time our successes will outnumber our failures more and more, I truly believe that is the best we can be. But no room for ego.