You had a bad training day. You got angry. You yanked at your dog, jerked them around a little bit and generally behaved badly. Ugly stuff.

What happens now?

One answer is to blame the dog. The dog deserved it. The dog is stubborn and hard. There is no other way to train such a tough dog.

You can certainly handle your cognitive dissonance by rationalizing that your dog is harder, tougher, and more stubborn than other dogs – you had no choice!

The other option is to be logical. Accept that humans make bad decisions. We react without thinking. We get upset and do things that aren’t great, emotions over logic, and that will never change because no one is 100% logical.

Now, step back and decide what you’re going to do next.

When you make a bad decision, you can change your philosophy to match your behavior, or you can change your behavior to match your philosophy.

Rationalization is the name of the game within the human condition. It’s your choice what drives you but you do need to be mindful and make your choice consciously because unconscious decisions rarely leave the individual accountable.

Logical decision-making or rationalization?

The most common reason for bad behavior in dog training is a human who doesn’t know how to do better at that time. They don’t know how to handle a problem, or they lack the skills to apply the training correctly. And maybe on top of that, they had a bad day, so they’re not in a good place to do better. Behavior happens. Human behavior too!

What happened yesterday is not important.  I’ve heard tales that would make your skill crawl and still…they are not important.  I can move past those stories because I don’t think they define the person standing in front of me.  They define the person of yesterday and that is no longer relevant.  The question needs to be this:

What are you going to do about it? Make a conscious choice and remember to keep the reality of human error front and center.  You did not show bad behavior because you’re stupid or because you’re a crappy trainer or because you have a bad dog.  You showed bad behavior because you are human and you are learning.  You are balancing what you believe with what you know and that can be pretty hard to do when it suggests you are lacking. And frustration often shows as aggression – for both dogs and people!

If you don’t know what you should’ve done then that’s fine too. There’s a lot of information out there these days. People to talk to, groups to join, and directions to explore. Not knowing how to handle something within your philosophy doesn’t mean you need to change your philosophy. It means you need education. Hopefully, you can get it in a safe space.