As the great @linnboyke says, “The best time to practice a skill is when that skill is not needed.”
Can you imagine trying to learn how to box in an actual fight rather than in the gym?
Almost all of our clients start off their evaluation by telling me what their dogs can’t do during really challenging moments. For example: when guests come over my dog barks, when I go to the park my dog gets overly excited with other dogs, when I leave the house my dog gets anxious..
Yet, these clients struggle controlling excitement when NO ONE is there but them (much less a guest). They struggle creating calm when their dog sees a dog out the window (forget the park). They can’t keep their dog from following them around the house without anxiety (forget leaving them). Do you see where the problem actually persists? NOT in the big moments. The problems are always there and we haven’t taught our dogs (in the easy moments) the life skills needed to deal with the more challenging moments.
If your dog needs the life skill called patience or impulse control, don’t wait until you leave the house and hope he/she nails it. Teach your dog to wait for everything (food, treats, access to your personal space, affection, toys, play, etc). Once that skill is solid in known environments, it will be easier to apply in unknown environments.
“The best time to practice a skill is when that skill is not needed.”