Does Your Dog Make Mistakes?

Tips & Advice → Does Your Dog Make Mistakes?


Even though we are dog trainers and our clients think our dogs are "perfect", they do make mistakes. And in the spirit of full disclosure, so do I. I've yet to meet a dog or person that was 100% perfect all the time.

When my dog makes a mistake it's usually no big deal. Actually most of the time it was my fault for not teaching him what I expect or what is acceptable in a certain situation.

When he does make a mistake, I try to make a mental note to try to recreate the situation so I can teach him what I do want him to do.

If I don't, he's likely to repeat the same mistake again. If that happens it's definitely my fault. Educating my dog is one of my responsibilities both as a dog owner, and as his leader. It's my responsibility to keep him safe and teach him how to not just survive but to thrive with me.

I haven't thought of every situation that might come up, so upon occasion we encounter a situation we haven't dealt with before. One really cool thing that often happens is I will catch my dog looking at me. It's his way of asking me what he should do. If I show him what I want in that situation, he'll usually follow my lead and get a lot of "Good Boys."

Why does my dog ask? It's because he trusts me. He knows, from experience, that I am not going to let anything bad happen to him. This trust took time and effort on both our parts. It took patience and not putting him in situations he wasn't prepared to handle.

People often ask me how long it will take to break a dog of bad habits. Things take as long as they take. There are a lot of variables. How clearly we communicate with each other and understand each other, our previous experiences, our relationship with each other and our intelligence all come into play.

Another factor is how often we work on something.

My dog lets me know when he gets a new concept because he shows me consistently over and over that he knows what to do. He'll get it when he gets it. Sometimes it happens very quickly and other times it takes longer. No matter how long it takes, working on something new is an opportunity.

It's an opportunity to enhance our bond and trust and have fun spending time working together. The more my dog learns, the more he's allowed to do and the more experiences we'll have together. These shared experiences are what make the memories that we both cherish. Although my dog never vocalizes them I know he has them. How can I tell?

When we get to my parent's home, he immediately wants to go to the dock to see if there are ducks to chase. He might not go there for months but when we get there that's what he does.

We might not go the park for a long time, but when we get there he knows which trail we'll likely take. Dogs tend to have very good memories.

So we all make mistakes. That's life. What we do with those mistakes is what's important. We can berate ourselves or our dog or we can turn them into learning experiences and use them to grow.

The choice is ours. Your dog isn't dwelling on them unless we do. He files it away for the next time the situation occurs. I file them as well, but then try to both teach and learn from them. 

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