What are your goals?
So far, I’ve learned that the best way to reach a goal in dog training (or anything in life for that matter!) is to set that goal. Simple, right? Well… actually it’s not as simple as it sounds. How many of us have set goals, in our minds, only to give up on them after a few days or never quite follow all the way through on accomplishing EVERY DETAIL about that goal? For example, have you ever said to yourself “I’m going to lose 10 lbs by next summer. I’m going to add exercise every day and eat more vegetable and less sweets”? These are fantastic goals… but did you stick with it? Did you put the right supporting people/systems in place to help you stay on track? Did you maintain your success long term once you reached that goal?
When it comes to achieving goals in dog training (or in life!) there a few steps in the process that can really help you follow through:
1. Recognize what your dog training goals actually and realistically are through thought and observation
2. Fully identify your dog training goals by writing them down in detail and keep them in a location that you will SEE every day
3. Realize your dog training goals by finding the help you need to develop a plan that supports your progress, encourages your efforts and helps you maintain your success long term.
So step 1 is pretty easy, watch other dogs and their handlers and think about what you want your dog to do the same… or do differently. What do you want to accomplish with you pup? Heeling on the walk? Staying in the place command when company comes over? Reliable recall when off leash?
Step 2 isn’t too bad either, whatever your goals are for your dog, write them down. Stick it on the fridge, the table, or the bathroom mirror and read it every day. Allow this important goal (the ultimate outcome or payoff for your investment of time, money and hard work) to motivate you to do your homework and practice your exercises with your dog every day. Make training as necessary a part of your day as sleeping and eating and going to work. Sometimes, even if it’s just for a few weeks to get through some tough stuff, you have to reorganize your daily priorities. So for the next two weeks, maybe it is more important to train with your dog than it is to watch evening tv.
Now here comes the real work, step 3. Perhaps your goals are bigger than you current knowledge or skills to achieve them. So what now? Well, this is when you start looking for help. Most people who have overcome great challenges or reached amazing success had a lot of help along the way. So if you don’t have the technical dog training skills to change your dog then look for someone who does and is willing to help you. This can be in the form of classes, reading books, or watching free online videos created by a reputable dog trainer. However you do it, learn the skills, do the exercises, and develop the discipline to follow a training program. Create a plan for yourself and your dog and put the key support people/systems in place so that you have no other option but to be successful… set yourself up to win! It’s a lot like taking a course of antibiotics for an infection, if you follow the doctor’s instructions every day and take your pills the infection will clear up and you will quickly return to full health. However, if you quit taking your pills too soon you have now created two additional obstacles for yourself to overcome: 1-the infection can return and you may get sick again, 2-you have made the infection stronger by helping it to become resistant to the antibiotics.
It may sound like a lot of work, time and money to make a plan and do the work required sticking to the plan, but it can turn into a lot more work, time and money if you don’t. Happy training my friends!