If you'd like to learn calculus, we can't start with calculus. We've first got to master addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, geometry...
The same concept holds true for dog training.
If you'd like your dog to learn how to walk past another dog, on a loose leash, showing no signs of reactivity, then we can't start with loose leash walking in high-distraction environments. We've got to master loose leash walking in zero-distraction environments, first. And truthfully, if your dog is reactive, then we probably won't even start with loose leash walking techniques... We've got to address the stress, anxiety, arousal, and reactivity, first, or the reactivity will just become counter-productive to the loose-leash walking. (See last blog post about relaxation techniques!)
This concept is called the Grade School Model (as taught to me by Mark McCabe). Students begin learning very basic concepts in school, and each grade level builds upon the last. Students are expected to achieve success with knowledge and skills in order to "graduate" to the next level.
What happens when students don't achieve success, but still "graduate" to the next level? Every increase in grade level becomes harder and harder, and the student falls farther and farther behind until learning is so difficult, stressful, and unsuccessful, that the result is failure. Failure to succeed... failure to cope...
Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
We must prioritize overwhelming success in dog training. Dog training should be easy. When training a dog, you shouldn't feel pressured or stressed. If you do feel pressured or stressed, then you're most likely working over your Grade School Level (or over your dog's Grade School Level). In this case, identify easier environments in which you can train, so that success is absolutely possible and practically guaranteed. Work within a lower Grade School Level, for now. Then, identify smaller increments of difficulty to improve upon. Because, as difficulty increases, performance decreases. And we want to avoid poor performances. We want to avoid failing environments. We need to focus on overwhelming success.
When we work within a dog's Grade School Level ability, we'll reach our goals even faster than if we push too far, too fast.
All for now,
P.S. A huge shoutout to my mentor Mark McCabe! www.markmccabe.com