A few months ago Bubba and I were in obedience class, and he was being an out-of-control jerk. The trainer could see my obvious frustration (the eye rolls and sighs must have given it away) and she stopped me and said something that I will remember for the rest of my life…..”you need to deal with the dog you have today. Not the one you had yesterday. Not the one who did everything right last time. The dog you have today”.
Last week in obedience class Bubba was a rockstar. He was so well-behaved and focused a visitor to the class thought he was there to demonstrate appropriate behavior to the other dogs. I was patting myself on the back (mentally) smug and self-satisfied with how well my dog was trained. The next day at lunch a lady stopped and told me that Bubba was the best behaved dog she’d ever seen. Monday we went in the Family Dollar store with his trainer to work on public access skills. He was amazing; focused and calm.
Today Bubba acted like he had never even seen a leash before. His trainer tried to use him as an example for the “leave it” exercise. He did not leave it. When we went in the back room to practice stays and come. He didn’t come when called. When it was time for loose-leash walking, he pulled a little. Today was obviously NOT a good day for obedience work. And that’s okay. Just because he wasn’t focused today doesn’t mean he’s ill-trained or has forgotten all of the hours of work we’ve put in together. No, it just meant he was feeling like a goof today. And it’s my job as handler to start from where he is, and work upwards from there. There is a reason that a true service or therapy dog has completed hundreds and hundreds of hours of training……
The dog I had today was more interested in playing ball than in a perfect “stay”.
There is no room in positive reinforcement training for frustration or impatience. All that does is drive a wedge between handler and dog. Tomorrow will be a different day, and maybe we can return to the precision work I’ve come to expect from him. No one is good all of the time. No one wants to be serious 100% of the time. And that includes dogs.
Today my dog wanted to be a playmate……..not a role-model. So after class we played ball…and we ended the afternoon calm and happy instead of tense and frustrated. Our goal is to increase our bond….not destroy it with impatience.