Dog training is a mechanical skill - just like learning to dance, or ride a bike. And you wouldn't expect to get away with learning either of those skills without making a few mistakes along the way now would you?
As a dog training professional, I see first-hand the struggles that people have with learning the fine art of communicating effectively with their dog. Here's the most common problems and some ideas of how to fix them:
"I don't reward my dog using sausage/ cheese/ tennis ball (replace with your dog's drug of choice!) because it gets my dog too excited"
Um, if my dog does a GREAT job I want to use GREAT rewards. So rather than avoid using them because they get too excited, I'm going to train them to cope with the excitement without losing their cool. Because let's face it - there are going to be other events in their life that excite them, the more opportunities they have to learn about controlling and managing their own excitement, the better!
Using distractions in the environment like other dogs/ people/ toys etc. as an excuse for your dog's poor behaviour
Sometimes it's easier to blame other people for our dog's behaviour than it is to work out what to do to address it. And it's true that when you first start training they may well be distracted by things around them - but that's OUR training issue, not anyone else's.
Recently I was out walking and someone was preparing to launch a tennis ball from a thrower. Aka MAJOR recall distraction for Vodka my youngest Border Collie. She's rather hoping Father Christmas will bring her one to play with her mummy - sadly the elves didn't get that memo ;)
But rather than stress out at the other owner throwing the ball, I've simply been working on Vodka's retrieving skills. So when she did as I expected she might ;) and ran for the ball, I just asked her to let me have it and returned it to the other owner. Did that skill happen overnight? Oh how I wish! But by taking responsibility for improving HER skills instead of using distractions as an excuse for her less desirable behaviours, I've grown even more as a dog trainer. And I know you can too :)
Accepting your dog's poor behaviour as an inevitable part of their age/breed/size rather than looking to fix it
Urgh! My pet hate! My dog has a poor recall because it's a breed that loves scents/ sniffing/ chasing (replace with your dog's favourite activity!) - and the implication is that there's nothing you can possibly do to change it! WRONG! It might be harder, it might involve more challenges, and there might be more pot holes along the way - but I've yet to meet a dog that is a hopeless case. Don't give up, just seek better information and ways to educate your dog :)
Only applying the dog training criteria you've learned when in a training situation - rather than all of the time
Dogs are smart. That's why I LOVE living with and working with them every single day. But that intelligence can be a little problematic if our dog's believe that we're only paying attention in training classes ;) Over any given 24/7 period our dogs are learning about what our observation skills are like and how well we stick to our training guns. Sloppy criteria at home equals sloppy behaviour from your dog! But regular practice for us will help us to become master dog trainers all day long :)
Today I'm grateful for every mistake I ever made - even if I wasn't always grateful at the time ;) Because getting it wrong really is the secret to getting it right :)