I could count this as a dog training failure on many levels: I moved too quickly, didn’t test the behavior in a high distraction environment, and didn’t have a back up plan.
But I think my biggest problem was forgetting that in dog training, feelings count too.
But My Dog Did It Other Times
My dog training fail is so huge that it could have been fatal.
Fortunately, it was just embarrassing. Oh, and excellent blog fodder.
Several years ago we decided to get help from a professional trainer. Not because Honey had any difficult behavior issues.
No, we just wanted to grow her confidence and build the skills that eventually led to her living comfortably on a sailboat.
In truth, she was already a very good dog. And one thing I was proudest of was her ability to sit beside me on the porch without running off to greeting every dog and person who walked by.
Good girl, Honey. Good girl.
Until one day…
We were waiting for our trainer, sitting on the top step leading to my front porch. As Russ got out of his car, I could feel Honey’s excitement. But I felt confident. She’d stay right by my side. She always had before.
Famous last words.
In an instant, Honey went running down the stairs and out into the middle of the street to greet Russ, her favorite person ever. The man who smelled of dog treats. And who played fun training games with her.
What had I done wrong?
Feelings Count Too
I had totally failed to understand how deeply Honey felt about Russ compared to any random stranger on the street.
Yes, Honey is an extroverted flirt. So it was huge that she could sit by me on the porch without rushing after every stranger.
But Honey didn’t just want to flirt with Russ. Honey looooooooooooooooooooooved Russ.
And my other mistakes partnered with forgetting to take Honey’s feelings into account could have been fatal.
Luckily, no cars drove by as Honey rushed into the street.
And once she got to Russ, she was not going to leave his side no matter what. So he walked Honey to my front door while she stuck to his side like she was wearing a three-inch long leash.
A leash made of liverwurst, that is.
Morale Gal Always Thinks Of Feelings
My husband calls me the captain of our boat. But I think of myself as Morale Gal.
Most decisions I make come down to how everyone feels when facing a particular situation.
Sure, we CAN travel fifty miles in a day while it’s cold and raining. But SHOULD we?
Because although we have the navigation skills to pick our way through the bays, rivers, and canals that make up the Intracoastal Waterway, cold makes us tire more quickly. And we’re more likely to miss a mark or misinterpret it when we don’t feel good.
Just like Honey, feelings count for something. And if we don’t take them into account when training (her or us), we set ourselves up for a big fail.
Thanks to one big training fail I go slowly, have a back up plan, train for distractions. But I also consider how everyone is feeling.
Because in dog training, like life, feelings count for a lot.
Your Turn: Do your dog’s feelings affect how or what you train?
Join Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days in sharing positive pet training stories, encouragement, challenges and triumphs. The hop is open all week long beginning the first Monday of each month.
For February our theme is “Training Confessions” – feel free to share bad training habits or mistakes, an unedited training session or any other positive training post you would like!