Remember when you first started driving? You drove, slowly, through parking lots or uncrowded streets early in the morning before anybody was out. You had mom or dad in the car with you, talking you through just how hard to press on the breaks or the accelerator. How to avoid obstacles and prevent crashes. Over the course of time, you learned and started to feel more and more confident.

You may have had a few mistakes along the way, but mom or dad or whomever was teaching you to drive, guided you. They showed you the correct way to do something…allowed you to try it again, and again…until you succeeded. And, if you are old like me and had Driver’s Ed in school…the teacher had that handy break on his side to help prevent any unwanted incidents from arising (thankfully)! My poor Driver’s Ed teacher…but that’s another story.

Those early morning, uncrowded streets and parking lots turned into a little bit of traffic on neighborhood roads. You experienced a set of “wins” without many mistakes. Your confidence continued to grow until the point you were ready for the highway and faster speeds and more cars.

It was a slow and deliberate learning process that set you up for success.

So, what the heck does this have to do with training your dog?

It’s all about baby steps…gradual growth and learning. Being shown the foundation of the right way to do something. Nobody in their right mind would through a 16 year old with no previous driving experience on the Autobahn driving a Lamborghini.

So, then, why is it that many dog owners expect their dogs to perform on an Autobahn level when we haven’t shown the the right way to do something on the uncrowded streets or parking lots?

Dogs are taken to dog parks at a young age before they have a solid relationship with their owner or solid foundation of obedience. And then the owners are angry when the dogs doesn’t come when called. Dogs are allowed to pull on leash, or pee/sniff at free will during the walk, or, even worse, allowed to react like Cujo at the dog walking across the street. All these moments are inadvertently teaching the dog that they don’t need to respect their human. Somehow the owners expect the dog to handle like a Lamborghini on the Autobahn when they can’t even pull out of the driveway without bumping into something.

Dog training needs to happen in baby steps too, just like learning to drive, especially in the case of rehabilitating problem behaviors in dogs. You start small. You build upon the “wins,” layer by layer. Setting your dog up for successes, not failures. The dog gains confidence in himself (AND in his owner). Slowly increasing the distractions and difficulty for the dog.

Rehabilitating a dog doesn’t happen overnight. There needs to be practice…and patience…for both the owner and the dog. Baby steps and hard work is what is takes, but the results will be more than worth it!