Have More Wrecks
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I'll level with you, I don't mean that exactly literally. I don't think people should set out to have wrecks. What I do think is that people need to push their dogs. See, people are so worried about their dogs making a mistake that they rarely push their dog in training. That is just simply a huge error, for more reasons then I could blog about. I've said it before; if you're not having wrecks, you're not pushing, if you're not pushing, you're not improving. I remember clearly having my dad call me one day and him saying "how'd your dog work?" To which I replied quite proudly "great, he did awesome." And then he shocked me by saying "well that's not good, must not have learned anything." It was one of those bullet to the forehead moments. When clarity seems to strike you right between the eyes. Since then I always work dogs the same. Firstly, I'll take a dog and just start working it. Starting by asking them to do things I know they did fine the previous session. Then I'll start pushing them and working them more. I'll watch very closely until I see a weakness in their knowledge or ability. The second that I see that I'll start forcing them into situations where that particular weakness is challenged. Then I'll work on it until they improve or until they stop trying to learn (I mean I won't work a dog past where it is absorbing the knowledge). For some dogs that's 10 minutes or 5 even, for others it's 45 minutes. Now when I do that I have to understand they may make huge errors while we're working on the weakness of the day. If I am purposely putting them in tough spots, I have to support them where I can and correct them when they deserve. When they do get it, then I make sure it feels like the most easy and natural thing in the universe. Even if they simply improve I make sure it feels good to them. But those moments are almost never easy and the dog makes mistakes. They may even make the mistake multiple times. If I refused to allow those wrecks, then I would never push them to be better. Like I said, I don't think you should try for wrecks. I do think you have to know and accept that they will happen. Learning is hard but stagnation is harder.