Nothing stifles learning or a spirit more than the fear of making mistakes.
Even with positive reinforcement training, if dogs are not getting a click/reward, you will see some start doing restless displacement behaviors like shifting or scratching, etc. There will often be looks of desperation in their pleading eyes. At that point, I am so grateful that I was chosen to be the trainer of this precious, sensitive soul.
Dr. Lore Haug of the Texas Veterinary Behavior Services, posted a great article from Tamarack Hill Farm on the perspective that we all should keep in mind when we teach animals. While it is about horse training, the same principles apply to dogs. Here are a few excerpts from the article on:
The Curse of Perfectionism and the Power of Pretty Good
“Humans have goals, like earning a varsity letter, or winning the State Championship, and to attain those goals, they are willing to push through the pain.
Horses have ‘goals’ too…to eat grass and hang in pastures with other horses. Those goals have zero to do with ‘pleasing the darling owner who loves them.’
When horses are being resistant, it is almost always because they are either not understanding the aids being applied, or are getting tired and starting to get to the point, like the lacrosse player at the end of the game, where ‘one more time’ is about the last straw.
But perfectionist humans tend to be all over the ‘one more time’ because that last attempt wasn’t good enough.
Learn to accept ‘pretty good’ as good, and quit after a couple of ‘pretty goods.’
Lots of days of ‘pretty good’ can turn into very good indeed, in ways that an insistence on ‘perfect’ never can.
Every time I hear that ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect,’ I cringe in relationship to training.
If you are one of those people with a visceral need to be perfect, take it out on some inanimate object like a musical instrument or a baseball bat, not on some living creature.”
The moment we put a leash on a dog, fence it, and make it live in a human world (often devoid of other dogs), we are adding stress to their lives.