Often when I am contacted by a client asking me to help them with their dog, the conversation begins with the caller expressing their disappointment in the “error” of their dogs’ behavior or in their own inability to change, eliminate or modify these behaviors. My success or failure in changing the clients’ viewpoint from a negative to a positive depends to a great extent on how successful I am in convincing my client to view every error that the dog makes as an “opportunity” to teach the dog an alternate or more positive behavior.
Knowing and accepting that dogs learn by “association”, that is a dog associates every behavior with either a positive or pleasing consequence, or conversely, a negative or unsatisfactory consequence is the key- to behavior modification. Once we accept this simple casinortakest fact then it becomes much easier, quicker, and certainly more humane to teach and reshape a dogs’ behavior. Canine behavior, regardless of what the behavior may be, is triggered by one or more of their “drive instincts” which we will discuss in detail at another time. For now I will limit my discussion to errors or opportunities.
For those of you who may find yourself frustrated or annoyed with a dogs behavior or series of behaviors, I ask that you view these behaviors as cue cards or opportunities for you to teach your dog alternate and more desirable behaviors that will benefit both you AND your dog.
Keep in mind that dogs learn from making mistakes or “errors”. What they learn though depends entirely on the consequence. If the error or undesirable behavior is “positive to the dog, then he or she will repeat it – if the consequence is negative to the dog then they will not repeat the behavior. It is that simple.
To prevent a dog from making errors so that they can learn from them will deprive the dog of their ability to learn and you of an opportunity to teach and bond with your dog.
If you truly love your dog then you must “let him learn” Converting errors into teaching opportunities will serve to form an indestructible, loyal and life long bond between you and your dog.
Note: Allowing a dog to make mistakes does not mean that we allow them to come into harm’s way. It is our responsibility as good pack leaders to allow the dog to make only errors that are controlled so that no harm will come to the dog.