One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned through my career of training dogs is to do away with goals within a single session. I have found greater success and have built better relationships with my dogs by focusing on the overall feel of each session, rather than what was actually accomplished. We’ll meet our goals, whether it takes a single session or a dozen, there’s no point in stressing either of us out with unnecessary pressure.
Now, I’m not saying that I train without goals whatsoever. I work towards certain behaviors but don’t set time limits on them. I don’t start a training session with the idea of getting a specific behavior from my dog, I know which direction I want to head but don’t hold expectations. Each session is a progression from the last but there are always a few road bumps along the way.
Dogs are not robots and neither am I. Either of us could be having an off day, or maybe we just aren’t connecting as we normally do. If I were to set goals at each session, I would be putting pressure on my dog and myself to meet that goal. If we don’t accomplish what I had planned, I may leave the session frustrated or even worse, my dog will be frustrated.
I prefer to focus on the overall feel of my training sessions. Was my dog pushing me to work as hard as they normally do? How was their enthusiasm? Were there outside factors that may have influenced how we connected? How did my energy affect my dog’s? Have we made forward progress towards our goals, or do I need to revisit my training plan? Are there any potential problems that could develop if we continue on this path?
We are a main source of joy for our dogs. We owe it to our dogs to allow them to be our joy as well. Focus on the big picture, let the details come together with time and enjoy training your dog, one session at a time.