Many times when I'm working with clients through ongoing behavior issues, I'll ask how things have been progressing over the last couple of weeks since our last session, and they'll respond with something like, "We had a really terribly day Tuesday. We were walking, and Spike saw a dog across the street and it was barking at us, and Spike just lost it, barking and lunging. None of the techniques we've been using worked! We had to just drag him away. And then he was just terrible the rest of the day."
"Okay," I'll reply, "That sounds intense. How was he before that day, though? And what about the days since then?"
"Oh, I guess he's been pretty good. Actually, he's been a lot better than when we started."
It's very easy for someone to focus on the one day when everything went wrong, but lose sight of the 13 days when things were improving! And while we want to learn from those times that things went south, if we focus on those too much, we'll lose our enthusiasm become dejected and stop making progress.
Anyone can have a bad day - including dogs. Sometimes there's an identifiable reason - a dog showed up unexpectedly under the threshold distance, or your dog had a stressful experience a bit earlier that put him on edge. But I believe that sometimes, just like us, a dog can just "wake up on the wrong side of the bed" for reasons that are impossible to predict or identify.
And that's okay! Don't sweat the occasional bad day. Pay attention, see if there's anything to learn from it, but then move on. Look at trends, not specific events. If your dog is having a bunch of bad days, then the training regimen needs to be adjusted. But one bad day every week or two, and otherwise doing well and improving? Then you and your dog are doing great! Keep up the good work!
And by the way? This applies to you, too. You're not going to be at your best every day. Some days you'll just be clumsy or oblivious and make a ton of mistakes working with your dog. And sometimes, you'll be on edge yourself and end up losing your temper with your dog. Don't beat yourself up! At Best Dogs Ever, we don't punish our dogs for their mistakes - we help them learn and be better next time. And that applies to the humans, too! When you lose your cool or get totally flummoxed, just take a breath, go home and call it a day, and get back on the horse after a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is a better day!