Candy Kennedy – Trials and Errors

Making mistakes

Through the years many of my students had trouble understanding how to take advantage of a dog making mistakes. If handled correctly a dog (AND student) will learn as much from being “wrong” as being right.

Your dog  should NEVER be afraid to make a mistake or he will be hesitate at *those* times when you need a positive approach.

Think about when you are trying to learn something new. Do you do it right every time – of course not.  However, I bet the things that stick in your mind “the most” are the things you do wrong. Unless carried to an extreme – I don’t see that as a negative thing.

To this day … when I walk off a trial course I can tell you everything I did wrong – even when I have a good run. I need to remember what went wrong so I can go home and “fix” it. If I only remember the *good* I would never get better. I never think “gee, how did I make that panel” … but do I ever “mull over” WHY I missed it :@)

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the run or my dog … only that I’m always striving to get better and improve my dog and my handling.

However, if a dog *fears* to make a mistake it can become a critical hole in his training. When a dog fears doing something wrong … he’s NOT going to be giving it his “all”. It’s like walking on ice expecting it to break any moment … are you going to stride out with all the confidence in the world if you expect to fall through at any moment?

Making mistakes and using those mistakes to your advantage to show the dog the CORRECT way to do something … will build a strong bond of trust between you two. This will encourage him to look to you for guidance when things start going “down hill”. However, getting angry at his mistakes will make him turn away from you when things go wrong … just when he needs direction the most.

Let’s take outruns … he’s running out to where he thinks he saw sheep but he’s wrong (seeing … maybe … rocks or cattle on the other side of the road, etc.). He doesn’t need a handler yelling or getting upset. He needs information … calm helpful direction and *that’s where YOU come in*.

Go back to the basics (to make him comfortable with things he knows) and walk out towards the sheep trying to get him to look in a different direction. Just like you did at the very start of his outrun training. When he finally finds his sheep it will be because of teamwork between you and him.

After all to Err isn’t just human – it’s also canine.

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