Is my dog just being stubborn, willful, stupid?

Linda McVay, CCS CDW

Get Teddy!

Certainly you have set out to learn something new and found it was a lot harder than you thought it would be? Maybe your goal was learning to play a musical instrument or mastering a pirouette in dance or even attacking a foreign language. All of these worthy endeavors would require a large effort, both in time and commitment and you would expect to get things wrong in the beginning as often as you got them right. But, let’s just say that you are an exceptional student and after a hundred hours of studying and practicing on your own you decide to demonstrate your skills in front of your friends and family, or in the case of a new language you might try to communicate with some native born speaker.

What are the chances that you would be flawless in your performance? And if flawed, were you speaking haltingly because you were being stubborn, were you sloppy in your pirouette or in playing the instrument less than perfectly because you were being willful? I doubt that any of us would purposely perform badly. It might be that the dance move had never been performed on hardwood floors or music was never presented under the pressure of critical attention and certainly the opportunity to speak Portuguese to a native Brazilian would be daunting and affect confidence. Circumstances could distract and performance might easily flag in any newly or partially learned skill.

I can almost guarantee that the people around you when you were learning new things, especially if you were a child when you began, understood that you were going to make mistakes and that they stood by you and helped to move you forward in your quest. Today you may take pride and satisfaction in the successes and accomplishments of your journey, but the path was not easy.

It takes time, repetition and patience to make any performance successful. It also means that the person in your life who is your teacher, tutor and mentor needs to understand that sometimes taking things slowly and reinforcing those first behaviors again and again builds confidence and surety of step.

The next time your pup fails to “sit” or your older dog fails to do a “down” maybe the question to ask is, “Have I been a good tutor, teacher and mentor and am I contributing sufficient patient effort to help in setting my dog up for success in learning new things?”