At the start of the walk today Ida kept being nervous about big trucks and buses passing - something she used to have a problem with years ago. We walked the same street yesterday with no reaction at all. She was a bit more tensed today from the start as it was the first time she was out for the day. We worked through it and after a few minutes she didn't care at all any more. But it made me think about the way so many dog owners see training, as constantly have to label each interaction in terms of progress or set-backs, and our obsession with perfection. Dogs have bad days and that's ok. However, if your dog shows a behaviour you have labelled as “bad” that you thought you had “overcome”, and you then become tensed and worried, you are more likely to start to anticipate that outcome and cause the behaviour to happen over and over again until it has become a habit.
It always makes me laugh when people say that they have the impression that my dogs are perfect. Of course they are not! No human or non-human animal is perfect. I’m not perfect, so why would I expect my dogs to be? They are individuals with their own temperaments and tendencies, not pre-programmed robots - and that’s part of what makes them great. How boring would it be if all dogs (or people) were identical? I am not perfect, but I can honestly look at my own behaviour and say that I always try my very best, and I expect the same from my dogs. Their behaviour doesn’t have to be flawless, but granted that I have been clear in my communication, I want them to make an effort. Its is a partnership.
Dog training is not so much about getting from A to B and having "fixed" your dog, but about learning how to develop a cooperative relationship based on trust and respect. Just like human relationships, the one with your dog is constantly in motion and changing over time, which requires you to always be attentive and supportive to the other individual's needs. Dog training is not a specific time dedicated to "fixing" your dog, it is taking active responsibility for your end of the relationship, and going in with the commitment to always be there for your dog to guide it through whatever situations or bad days you may have.