Mistakes are where the magic is at!
I see lots of owners, and beginning trainers, who are super nervous about their dog, or training dog making a mistake.
They preempt choices they think are headed into mistake land, they hover over the dog nervously ensuring that only the smallest margin of error is allowed. But what happens is that oftentimes the dog never gets to make the mistake necessary to learn. For the dog to learn that breaking Place isn’t ok, they eventually need to be allowed to actually step off of it. (That doesn’t mean they need to be allowed to run all the way into the other room, just committed to the mistake and stepping off is enough.) For the dog to learn that he can’t come out of the crate until you give permission, you have to give him enough room to actually try the big escape. For the dog to learn he can’t move though the threshold before you, he has to be able to actually do it.
Now that doesn’t mean I’m advocating for allowing lots of messiness and encouraging failure. Far from it. You all know I’m a huge advocate for catching the infraction early and significantly so it doesn’t become a problem. BUT, I see many people not allow the most important moment to transpire. And here it is:
You have to allow your dog the opportunity and then the decision.
Once you allow those to transpire you’re able to address and create clarity.
Here’s an example. You’re letting the dog out of the crate, and he loves to rush out. You carefully open the crate, using the door to correct him by shutting it when he attempts to come out, and then once he stays put you then stand up directly in front of the crate entrance, and then determine that the dog is being patient, polite, and obeying the rules. What’s really happening is that you’re blocking the dog with spatial pressure from exiting. You’re now under the false assumption that your dog is awesome when leaving the crate. A true gentleman. 🙂 But take two steps back away from the crate and BOOM, he darts out like a rocket!!
That’s because once you removed the spatial pressure you allowed the dog the opportunity to escape, and gave him the chance to make a decision about the opportunity. And until you do this, with all the exercises (sit, down, place, recall etc) you’ll never know what you’ve actually got, and what’s more, you’ll never allow your dog to get to the next level. (This is all part of the proofing process.)
So remember, mistakes are where the real learning and magic happens, and in order for them to occur you have to give your dog the opportunity to mess up AND allow him the moment to make the decision about that opportunity, and then you’ll know where you’re both at.