I am sure by now, we have all heard the popular Frozen song, Let it Go. But today we aren't talking about Queen Elsa, but the need to let it go when your dog has an off day.
I am not sure when the idea came about that dogs are furry little creatures that do our bidding. This idea of master and subordinate, all empowering dominating human over the dumb, small minded dog that WANTS to please us and is eager to obey doesn't exist. Anyone that has had a puppy KNOWS that puppy didn't come pre-programmed with a "Obey Human" button! They have to be trained of course!
Puppies and dogs are sentient beings. They feel, they have emotions, needs, wants, desires. They go through developmental periods like any animal and they create associations, relationships and bonds. Being feeling creatures, they can have OFF days. Just like you and me, your dog can have a day that he feels crumby and his behavior may be crumby too.
The reasons WE as humans may have a hard time with something can range from being tired, hungry, in pain, unfocused, traumatized by an event, cold, hot, etc. Dogs can have the exact same things going on that can throw them off.
I once wrote in a blog post that Lucy was not laying down on cue when I worked at a pet store long ago. She had me fuming that I was putting a lot of verbal pressure on her to lay down. She knew the cue, and I was frustrated and embarrassed that she effused. She would pin her ears back, lay down and pop back up and I would repeat the cue with louder tones and feverish hand signal. Then by accident, I saw the reason. She found a dog bed on the floor, laid on it and looked at me. We experimented and I saw all the signs pointing to the fact it was the hard surface that prevented her from taking the down cue. At the time, she was 7 years old and was having a hard time up stairs and getting into the car. I took her to the vet that week and they diagnosed her with arthritis. She went on some medication and didn't have an issue with her down cue after that. Yelling and gesticulating only hurt our relationship. Her having that off moment should have brought out the empathy in me, had me be a detective to figure out what was wrong, not be punitive.
I have witnessed owners in frustration jerk their dog's collar for not taking a sit when it was plain to see the dog didn't even realize it was being told to sit! I have seen trainers mouth off at their dogs and drag them away from competitions because the dog wasn't performing to it's normal standards that day. We all have tempers, we all have them flare.
Let this be a reminder to seek empathy for the wonderful dog in front of you. Figure out the WHY of the situation and rectify it. The dog being jerked around to sit isn't likely going to sit willingly after that or happily continue that training session. The dog drug away from the agility trial in anger isn't getting anything out of that other than perhaps a negative association with trials and a hurt relationship with the handler.
How do you fix this things? I put more answer based scenarios in the blog post "Ignoring Commands" if you wish to read more. Resign yourself to the fact that there will be a time where your dog will have a bad day, just like you and me and do your best to Let it Go....