Achieving your Training Resolutions for the New Year

New Years is all about resolutions and according to the Mayans, this may be that last chance we have to keep them. For many of us, resolutions are a nebulous concept at best; we set grand goals like “I am going to lose weight,” or “I am going to quit smoking,” or “I’m going to be as bad ass as the Honey Badger.” Unfortunately, we often fail to establish a well thought out plan to accomplish them.

While I am not an expert on goal setting (or achieving for that matter), there are a few things that all my successful resolutions have had in common.

  1. The goal was very specific and attainable.
  2. I had a detailed plan for achieving my goal.
  3. I had a method for dealing with failure.
  4. I had a support system in place if I needed it.

As dog lovers, we often make resolutions to get our best friends to “cease and desist” certain behaviors or maybe even install new and more likeable ones. We may even make attempts to teach them but how often do we actually come up with a plan?

In order to set sound and attainable goals for us and our canine companions for the coming year, here are a few suggestions…

Set Specific, Attainable, Goals

Having a broad goal like having a better behaved dog is elusive. However, a specific goal like keeping Fido from jumping up on visitors is well defined and leads to the gestalt of a better behaved dog.

Have a Detailed Plan to Achieve your Goal

Now that we know what the goal is we need a plan to achieve it. How do you get Fido to quit jumping up on visitors? Perhaps it is as simple as training a behavior incompatible with jumping to greet, like sitting to greet for example. But then go further, how are we going to teach it, when and where are we going to teach it, who is going to help us by playing the visitor etc.

Have a Plan for Failure

The best laid plans of dogs and man and all. Part and parcel of having a plan for success, is knowing what to do when something goes wrong. If we know “most” of the missteps that can happen beforehand, we have the means to get things quickly back on track.

Have a Support System in Place

Dogs are individuals and the world of dog training and behavior is wide. No one person can know it all. But as in any vocation, the best people know where to go for answers when they don’t have them. If you run into problems, it helps to have a trainer or other dog lover that has the experience to help you figure out what’s going on.

In addition to these principals here a few other tricks I’ve used to help me and my dogs attain our training goals over the years.

  • Capture your sessions on video if possible. This has really helped me to zone when my dogs are responding to cues other than those I intended. Similarly, having a training buddy can also accomplish this.
  • Take a class with someone new. Sometimes we need to be challenged to think in new ways. Taking a class with someone you don’t know can help open you mind up to other ways to achieve your goals.
  • Be the dog. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned when I put myself in my student’s fur coat. Have a training party where humans are both the trainees and trainers. Use the same methods you would use for you dogs.

I’d love to know what tricks you have for keeping your training goals accessible and on track. Leave us a comment won’t you?

Cheers and Happy New Year


3 thoughts on “Achieving your Training Resolutions for the New Year

  1. Excellent post, Kevin! I really enjoyed this, especially the part where you mention having specific, ATTAINABLE goals. 🙂 I wish all of the people we worked with were like you!

  2. Thank you Laura. I don’t get quite as specific as many people suggest you do, that’s just not me. But I do know that for me, success lies in realistic goals with an action plan to back them up.

  3. One of the best bits of advice that I was ever given as a young (whenever that was) Police Dog Handler, was
    “Never be afraid to go back to square one”

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