Most of us do have goals in mind when we start training our dogs. Perhaps it’s the desire to have a dog who displays the best skills of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Benji, and The Doberman Gang all rolled into one. Perhaps your goals are less lofty, such as not eating everything off your kitchen counter or dragging you down the street when a bunny suddenly appears.
The goals we set can have a huge impact on how we determine our success or failure when training our dogs. If our goals are set too high, we will always be disappointed. However, sometimes we sell ourselves and our dogs short by setting too low of expectations. If your goal is just to survive the day without anything of great value being destroyed, you might be setting your dog up for failure just as much as the person who expects their dog to be able to thwart a bank robbery single-handedly.
Everyone should have realistic goals. Clearly, some goals are just not going to be possible for 999,999 out of 1,000,000 dogs. On the other hand, if you assume your dog will never accomplish anything, you are actually setting him up to never accomplish anything. Goals should be broken down into short- and long-term goals. The long-term goals might not be realistic in the short term, but they are in the long term if you set short-term goals to help you get there. Short-term goals set the bar lower, but allow you to achieve success in smaller doses and in shorter time tables.
We all do better if we can celebrate some small successes along the way. But we will all be happier if we can achieve some larger goals over the long term rather than settling for something less than what we ultimately want.
I discuss goal setting and expectations in more detail throughout my Juvenile Delinquent Dogs book and include a Goals and Expectations Worksheet in Appendix A to help you work through those goals as you progress in your training.
Are your goals and expectations helping you to achieve success or are they holding you back?