Updated: Sep 2
You are a human being, not some infallible celestial being. You will make mistakes in your training or when you when are trialing, and that is completely okay.
"Are you saying that I shouldn't try to do the best I can?!"
Of course not.
As a handler and a trainer (because if you are training your dog, you are indeed a trainer), your goal should always to be to work toward an ideal. But it is just that: an ideal. You will likely never reach that ideal. There will always be something you have to work on. There will be that "thing" that you have to further improve, a skill that you have to keep finessing. Something to do with your handling. How it is you set-up a practice session. How you trial. How you approach a given odor puzzle. How you read the wind and surmise what will be going on in a given search area. Needing to work on those skills is completely normal and expected. If you were perfect, you would be running the universe and making it so the world and life as a whole wasn't so messy and imperfect, not stressing about a measly dog sport title or dog training goal.
"But I read/heard/saw I needed to do XYZ and I didn't do it right!"
Okay. Do you know how to do it better in the future?
Did you completely break your dog?"
"I don't think so...."
Did you learn why you should things a bit different next time, and why that different approach will better serve you and your dog?
Then you're good.
"I don't know..."
It's called learning.
Your dog is not the only one who is learning and perfecting skills, you are too. Sometimes those skills are how to set-up the learning exercises for your dog.
"Well, you're an instructor. I'm sure you never make mistakes like this..."
You'd be surprised.
Just last night I set-up a HORRIBLE search for my boy, and had to step in to help him because the search was blatantly unfair. Two Clove hides right next to each other. As in, right-next-to-each-other. He came up and found one hide, wonderful! He found the other hides within the search area. Fantastic! He was cued to find more. And he searched. And he searched. And he searched some more. He went back to the first Clove hide he found over and over and over again. I finally stepped in, with a pit in my stomach and shame in my heart. He finally found the second Clove hide with a ton of direction from me. My poor boy.
"...Why did you do that?"
I was excited after listening to the Start Lines: From Beginning to End Webinar and the notion of practicing a variety of skills to ensure they are kept fine tuned and fresh really spoke to me. I was motivated, excited and wanted to dive right in! We were going to work on a couple of different things: threshold hides, corner hides and ground hides. And wouldn't you know, he rocked them all! Three repetitions with, four hides in each search with a variety of those odor puzzles and he was a rock star. Good boy! He was game for more, so I set-up our final rep