I like to think I’m as passionate about dog training as any other DIY guy out there. Heck, my wife thinks I’m half nuts because on most nights I’m up late reading–rather re-reading–gun dog books. And in the morning I’m up at sunrise to go train before work. When I’m asleep I usually have nightmares about Pritch running wild in a dove field or eating our ducks one after the other. But this morning I hit the wall.

When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. for our daily training session I rolled over, mashed the snooze button, and then repeated. Don’t get me wrong: Pritch and I have plenty to work on, but maybe that’s my problem. I’m in a race against the fast-approaching duck season, and I think I’ve lost sight of the smaller steps that make a gun dog great.

Someone told me long ago this training game is a journey not a race, and they were right.

So when I woke up I walked downstairs and made a list. On it I wrote down everything Pritch has learned in the last 10 months (starting with house breaking, Sit, Stay, Here, and so on), what she does well, and what we need to work on.

On the list I also made a To Do section with a few chores. One of them included joining the local retriever club. (Because knowing a training buddy is waiting for you in the field will surely help motivate you on those days when you’d rather pour yourself an after-work drink.) The other was to make an appointment to see a pro for a couple of hours.

The list made me realize a few things. We’ve come a long way–miles and miles actually. And I need to take training one step at a time. Most of all, looking at the list made me appreciate the fact that I have a damn fine dog.

We’ll be at it again this afternoon. Full-steam ahead.

You ever hit the dog-training wall? Got a few tricks to keep the motivation high? Have a training goal you’ve set for you and your dog this fall? Let’s hear it.