As humans, we love to categorize and label things. We love being able to compartmentalize everything in our lives. We break time down into years, months, days, hours, etc. And we like to use special occasions to reflect on our past or start anew. Year end is one of those times we like to review our past year and make decisions about the new year and how it's going to be better.
Along the line of reviewing the past year and preparing for the new one, this might be a good time to review how successful you were this past year with your dog training goals. In Chapter 7 of my Juvenile Delinquent Dogs book, I cover Evaluating Your Progress. It's always good periodically to assess your dog's status. Is he as well-behaved as you expect him to be? Is he as well-trained as you want him to be? If not, it's easy for us to blame our dogs. He knows this, he's just being stubborn. He doesn't listen. He has such a short attention span. In addition to categorizing and labeling, we humans are also very good at making excuses for things not being what we expect them to be! But more often than not, if our dogs are not living up to our expectations, it's because we have not done what we need to do to help our dogs achieve these goals.
We need to assess whether we have been clear enough in our communication. Does our dog truly understand what we expect? In all situations that we ask for it? We need to assess whether we have been consistent enough in our training or if we allow our dogs to slack off at times because we slack off. We need to assess whether we have given our training and work enough time to take effect. Think about how long it takes us to develop and maintain a new habit. Building new habits can take a long time. For us and for our dogs. If we're having trouble sticking to it, how can we expect our dogs to? Sometimes we need to take a different approach to what we have been doing. Sometimes our best efforts just are not what our dogs need. Sometimes a change in our own behavior is in order to help our dogs change.
With the start of the new year, one of our goals might be to make the changes necessary to help your dog achieve the expectations you had in mind when you first brought home your dog. Think about where you are at. Are you happy with your dog's current behavior and training skills? If not, now is time time to set some new goals or refresh your former goals and get back on track.
We can help! For some, getting going on their own is enough. For others, finding some help and getting some structure in place will help you achieve your goals. A group class is a great way for some to commit to making the changes they need. Knowing you will be going to class each week might help give you the extra accountability to stick with your training. For others, private in-home training is more effective. Some one on one help can really give the boost some people need to make the adjustments or changes needed to be more effective.
If you have met your goals, congratulations! This might be the time to sign up for some training to have some fun with your dog and reward both of you for a job well done!