Hope training (verb): to train a dog to acquire a skill or master a behaviour without a plan or faintest idea of how your training will lead you to your desired end results.
Sometimes hope training is....
Hoping that you are actually training (and the dog is learning something)
Training with the hope that what you are doing will result in improved results
In both cases, you're leaving your results up to chance. Solid dog training has a few fundamental differences from hope training:
1. Clear criteria: The end-goal is very specific clear in your mind and you can easily explain it to someone else (e.g. " I want my dog to pay attention" vs."I want my dog to offer eye contact and a sit when we walk into the agility ring").
2. You are following a series of stepping stones to help you reach your goals: You know where your dog is starting compared to where you want them to be, and you understand all the steps you need to go through on the way to achieving that end result. Of course, these steps might need to be tweaked as you go, which is where #4 comes in.
3. You often videotape your training sessions: Video is an excellent tool to helping you understand where and why things might be breaking down, especially if you train alone. You can better appreciate how your body language, cues, and timing are influencing what your dog is learning. You can also stand back and observe your dog's body language- what is it telling you about the training session? When in doubt, ask an experienced trainer to review your video (both with and without sound) and ask them what they think might be breaking down as well as what seems to be going very well.
4. You keep records of the good, the bad, the great, and the not-so-hot: Keeping records about your success rate and past successes and failures your dog experienced (e.g. circumstances under which they nailed the skill every time and those in which they struggled) can help you formulate your next training steps, instead of falling into the trap of hoping that if you keep repeating the same exercise that they might one time just 'get it'. Think like a scientist and view these records as data you can collect to help you understand how to be a more effective trainer and reach your goals sooner.
Believing in you and your dog's success is important. Let us help you grow your hope to confidence by supporting you in designing a dog training plan to achieve your goals.