Starting a diet can be a lot like training a dog. Sounds funny, right? This might not seem to relate to dog training at first, but let’s explore this example. You start your diet on Monday. You’re excited, you stock your refrigerator with fruits and veggies, you break out the yoga pad, and here you go.
Breakfast on Monday goes great. Lunch was awesome. Now your husband wants to go grab Mexican for dinner. A cheese quesadilla, chicken enchilada, and bean burrito down-- and you say “Well, I can’t do this. I give up. Maybe I’ll try again next Monday.” (Because diets can only start on Mondays, right?) Why? Why not just start again on Tuesday? You made a mistake and you feel discouraged, but wouldn’t it be better in the long run to pick up again on Tuesday instead of giving up or waiting a whole other week?
Now that we’ve explored an example that’s probably very close to home for many, let’s bring it back to dog training. When you have a dog and you’re working diligently to train your dog, mistakes happen. Mistakes can range from being late to click your dog for good behavior to losing your temper and yelling. While these instances can be frustrating for both the owner and dog, the important thing to know is that you can start again on Tuesday. You have another chance.
It would be inappropriate for me to say mistakes don’t impact future situations—they certainly do. Depending on the severity of the mistake, it might make a noticeable impact in the relationship between owner and pet. But just like chowing down on too much Mexican food and following it the next day with veggies and fruits, you can come back from a bad training day.
The most important thing you can do to fix a bad training day is try to understand the impact your mistake has had on your relationship with your dog, and then determine what action is needed to repair any potential damage.
If the mistake was as small as a late click, you might see your dog a little bit more confused, but chances are, this has had little impact on the dog. In this case, you might just need another positive training session to make up for any damage.
If you lost your temper with your dog, you might see that your dog is a little bit more fearful or hesitant. In this case, you might want to start by having a positive, trusting, and successful training session with your dog. Try asking for cues that your dog is already familiar and comfortable doing, like “sit” or “lay down”. Build your dog up for success and give yourself opportunities where you can reward your dog. Also, give yourself opportunities where you can be affectionate towards your dog so you can build the bond between the two of you.
Another common mistake that people often feel remorseful for is their training schedule. Training a dog is a big commitment-- sometimes it means holding training sessions every day. Similar to diets, Monday might go great, Tuesday was good too, Wednesday was a little busy, Thursday a tad slower, and Friday training is nonexistent.
You might think “Well, this is just too much. Maybe it’s time to give up since I can’t meet this commitment”. Is that true? No! It’s important to understand that you can always pick up where you left off and still be successful. Even if the training beforehand was intermittent, it was still a positive step in the big picture of training.
Continued positive training will only make things better. Most of all, you need to remain encouraged, understand mistakes happen, and continue working to see the results you’re searching for. By understanding mistakes happen, you aren’t telling yourself that mistakes should happen, but merely that they accidently can happen.
By taking time to consider how the mistakes have impacted your dog and staying committed to your training, you can take appropriate action to continue working towards your desirable results. Just like giving up on a diet doesn’t get you in better shape, giving up in training doesn’t give you a well-behaved dog. Keep on training!