Welcome back to my series of 10 Important Dog Training Tips! The first week I discussed the importance of keeping things very clear through “no grey areas”, followed by why consistency is key. This week covers the tip of creating attainable goals for both you and your dog during the training phase.
As with anything in life, the attempt to achieve our goals can overcome our lives and destroy us if we don’t break the process down into small steps that can be achieved on the way to the greater end result. If we ignore the steps needed to take along the way, we can become quite frustrated and give up. The same can happen with dog training.
How do you achieve attainable goals with your dog? Here are some hints on creating a “schedule” that will help you.
- We start small. Let’s say I want to teach Caleb how to “Clean Up” or put his toys away before he goes to bed. I know I need to break this down into smaller, attainable goals, to get the end result I want. This means that I need to teach Caleb the following steps:
- Teach him how to retrieve obects on command
- Teach him how to carry objects to a designated area
- Teach him how to place the objects in a specific box
- These steps now need to be put into daily, weekly and monthly goals.
If I just jump to the desired trick of Caleb miraculously understanding he is suppose to pick up his toy and put it in his toy basket when I say “Clean Up” without showing him the steps along the way, I am going to become very frustrated. And if I am frustrated, you can bet your fur your dog is even more so. So, to help us both, I’m going to work on each part of this behavior in small steps so we both reach our goal with happy results.
Important! If you take longer to reach your goal than anticipated, do not worry! Just keep working on each step until you are satisfied with the result, you will both be much happier in the end.
Daily goals for this trick may be to work on Caleb picking up each toy on the ground when I point to it. A simple, yet important step to the final trick. Once Caleb has gotten that trick down, I will now focus on him carrying the object to me in the same room, then carry it to me from another room, etc. Next, I will work on Caleb dropping the object into the desired container I want him to put his toys away in. After we have been working on all of these steps individually, over a period of weeks, we can finally link all of the the steps together so that he has to pick up his toy, carry it into the proper room, and drop it in the desired container. Ta da! We have the end result of “Clean Up” accomplished over a period of months.
Here’s an easier example most people want their dogs to do – stay in place for long periods of time. When I was teaching Caleb to stay in a “Sit” for 5 minutes, I did not start the timer at 5 minutes. I started with what Caleb could easily do which was 30 seconds, and slowly built on that time. Each couple of days I added another 5 seconds to his period of time to stay in the sit position and if he had a hard time reaching my goal, I backed up to the time he could succeed at. This meant that I may have wanted him to jump from 5 seconds to 10 seconds, but he consistently broke the stay at 7 seconds. At this point, I didn’t want to be correcting Caleb, so I changed my goal to 7 seconds for a couple of days until I felt he could push through to 10 seconds. Eventually, we reached our goal of 5 minutes because we set attainable goals that we were both happy with.
So, remember, you can achieve your goals if you approach it in a sensible manner that both you and your dog can agree upon.