Knowing the differences between cruise control and autopilot may be a good way of thinking about dog training and how you interact with your dog. Now stay with me, here is what I mean:
Autopilot – When setting an airplane to autopilot, the pilot inputs some crucial data and then the systems of the airplane take over continuing to make sure that the plane is on task, headed in the correct direction, and maintaining proper altitude. When on autopilot, the pilot is free to monitor other systems (weather, hydraulics, etc.) and the plane will continue to stay on task.
Cruise Control – When using cruise control in a car, a driver reaches a desired speed and hits a button to have the car maintain that speed without the need to continue to press the gas pedal. With cruise control, the driver still needs to pay attention as there will be the need to steer, change lanes, and avoid obstacles.
Think of your dog and his training as a closer representation of cruise control. You still have to pay attention to your dog as they may need to be steered back on track if a cat runs out in front of you on your walk, your dog may still try to cheat and attempt to leave their placeboard before being released, and your dog may need to be interrupted if they are tempted by the pot roast sitting on the kitchen counter.
As time passes and your dog’s skills improve, you may start to approach more of an autopilot situation. Meaning, instead of lunging at the cat on your walk, your dog has learned some impulse control and can calmly pass by without incident. Instead of needing constant supervision while on a placeboard, you will be able to leave the room and your dog will remain on their place. Finally, instead of pushing the pot roast all the way back on the counter as far as possible, your dog won’t attempt to take it because you have not allowed that to be something that your dog has practiced.
Approach your dog training from a cruise control perspective at first; supervise, redirect, interrupt, and prevent collisions.
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