Embracing the Now
We've all put off scheduling that annual physical exam in hopes of improving our diet and exercise habits before seeing the doctor. We have orphaned pants hanging in our closet just in case we can wear them again someday. We may have a stack of boxes or papers that we intend to sort through.
We can't have a better tomorrow until we embrace today's opportunities. Animals live in the now. We need to let go of the woulda-coulda-shouldas and meet them in the now to change behavior. This may mean bringing a force-free professional dog trainer, like ourselves, onto your team.
This may also mean making a known behavior easier for your dog to perform in that moment. I'll ask my dog to do a learned behavior twice. If she doesn't respond correctly after asking two times in a row, I stop asking. I consider why she's unable to respond in that moment. Did she perceive my cue? Is there something in the environment making it difficult for her to correctly respond to the cue? Have I trained this behavior to fluency?
After your dog fails to respond to your cue, what do you do? You can either make it easier for your dog to respond or stop cueing. If your dog can sit in the living room but cannot respond to your sit cue in a group class, lure your dog into the sit. Make it easier. Train the dog in front of you. Guide your dog through the distracting now to meet your behavior goals. That's training in the now.
In the near future, you're going to make a training plan to proof sitting. This means practicing sit while adding distractions in a systematic fashion. For example, can your dog sit while you wrinkle a treat bag, bounce a tennis ball, squeak a squeaky toy, and as the cat runs by?
Remember, life is one big multiple choice test for dogs. Every time we cue our dogs, we're giving them a pop quiz. If your dog gets the answer wrong, stop and try again. Help your dog find the correct answer in the now. In the future, make a training plan that clearly defines the path to reinforcement. The path to reinforcement is paved with your training plan and practice. If your dog strays off this path, embrace the now to get her back on track.