The Three Other Reasons

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You trained the teeter just two days ago. It went great — your dog ran all the way up, stopped, waited for the release cue. Fabulous! You arrive at the training field full of optimism. After all, you are just going to practice what she already knows…

The session quickly goes awry. She did not stop! You’re not upset yet but a little confused, you didn’t expect that. You try again. Now she’s standing mid-teeter, just above the contact, waiting for you to release her. You’re waiting for her to step down to the contact. “Finally a staring contest” your Border Collie thinks. “You are gonna lose”. And she’s right, you’re gonna fail. You’re gonna fail triple! In consternation you release her. Of course, she jumps off without touching the contact. Now is the moment – remember the moment! You get upset wondering what happened to your dog. Your dog gets upset wondering why you’re upset. You spend the rest of the session trying to get to the point you were at two days ago. You failed the staring contest. You failed the training session. You failed your dog.

The moment

Remember the moment? That was the moment to stop. That was the moment to leave that teeter alone and go train something else. You’ll figure it out later. If you’re too upset, forget about it and just play with your dog. If you paid for renting the place I assure you that spending that time simply playing with your dog will be more cost-efficient than another 10 sessions that you’ll need to fix what you messed up by carrying on.

The three other reasons

If the training session doesn’t go as planned we tend to think it’s the dog’s fault. Well, it never is! If it seems your dog suddenly “forgot” something, I invite you to try coming up with three other reasons why it might have happened. Even if none of them are true, you will at least practice looking at the problem in a different way.

Listen to your dog

Maybe she is tired. Maybe you switched to a different toy and you thought it would not matter but it does to her. Or maybe you yelled at your other dog two hours ago, and you had a good reason, but she feels uneasy about that. The dog cannot tell you. But she can show you. What is happening might just be the way she’s trying to show you…

Potential reasons

There are tons of possible reasons and I’d rather you think of some yourself but here are some questions to prime your imagination:

  • Are you sure your dog has no shoulder pain?
  • Is the current setup truly the same as the previous one? Did you add a tunnel before the teeter? Move the teeter next to the wall?
  • Did anything happen at the end of the last session? Today’s morning?
  • Do you use the same rewards?
  • Are you concerned about something else in your life today?
  • Did you train yesterday? What? How long?
  • Is the weather the same?

The example

I chose this particular teeter example intentionally. I’m curious if you know what actually “happened to the dog”… Was it the handler’s fault? Let me know 😉

The answer (click here)

No one’s fault. The dog loved the previous session and had even more drive today. It’s hard to stop when you’re excited and running fast. That’s not a reason for the handler to get upset, that’s a reason to celebrate! The dog just needs a gentle reminder. That’s also normal she might stop too high the next time — she’s figuring out how to do what you wanted with the new speed… Less expectations, more trust.


  1. I love the title of this post 🙂 Now I can’t stop wondering what actually happened to the dog in your example. Was the handler in a different position or using different movement? Did you eventually figure out what was the most possible reason?

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