By Brenna Fender
No dog trainer is perfect. When training simple behaviors, you might most often get your cues, lures, clicks, and rewards right, but when the tasks get complicated, there is more room for error. One or two mistakes might not bother your dog, but multiple mistakes might. Some dogs are very sensitive to their handlers and might get upset if you are frustrated by your mistakes. Also, if you can’t reward your dog for doing the right thing (because you keep messing up!), he is also likely to get frustrated. Concerned and frustrated dogs become anxious and stop learning. They might start to dislike the behavior you are training or even training itself. Nobody wants that to happen!
No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid screwing up in dog training. But you can change your dog’s mind about your mistakes. When something goes wrong, hand out screw-up cookies! Release your dog from the training situation (if he’s trying to sit on cue, for example), use your happy voice, and give him a few small treats with a smile. If your dog prefers to fetch a ball or play with toys, play a very short game instead. While you are playing, shake off your frustration or disappointment and plan how to proceed in a way that avoids your previous mistake.
Screw-up cookies will make training your dog more fun for both you and your dog. Happy training!