New Year, New Training Goals

The start of a new year is often a time where we are making resolutions – to change our eating habits, organize an area of our home, learn a new skill, read more books – there are so many options! So how does this relate to dog training goals?

At the beginning of January, I had a short list of training-related goals for the start of the year:

  • Start work on a new trick title with Molly since she’s had fun with that in the past
  • Work on cooperative care with Buck, focusing on paw handling and nail trims
  • Record demo videos with Molly for an upcoming on-demand course
  • Find more quiet hiking spots and get out for adventures with the dogs at least once a week

And then some things happened…

… Molly tore her CCL and her mobility is limited for the time being. Then Buck had a touch of pneumonia followed by needing minor surgery to remove some lumps and bumps. We also found out that we’re moving in a few months, which prompted needing some work done on our house. And changes in work and school schedules plus pet needs meant a lot of our household schedules and routines were significantly altered. There were a lot of changes, SO, I had to pivot!

It can be stressful to need to change our goals, especially when the change comes about unexpectedly or is due to factors outside of our control. This is true for any training and life situation with our dogs. Perhaps we wanted to up our loose leash walking practice around distractions and then bad weather means that our walking spots are limited. Maybe you wanted to get out for adventures with your dog but changes in health (either yours or your dog’s) take that off the agenda for a while. Or perhaps you move to a new place, or normal life routines are disrupted, or an injury derails training – it’s tough!

When I was thinking about how I needed to change my own goals, it was a bit hard to let go of the original ideas I had. There might be some grief associated with changing goals, and that’s normal. So I tried to think about how I could make adjustments that worked within current limitations while still considering overall long-term goals. After pivoting my planning this is what I came up with:

  • Instead of trick training with Molly, we’re working on activities that don’t require a lot of full-body movement. We’ll be proofing old cues and teaching a few new ones that are fairly stationary, like chin rests, holding items on cue, and comfort with handling different body parts. I’m also focusing on enrichment options that don’t involve much walking or running (snuffle mats, food puzzles, simple training games).
  • I’ll still be working on cooperative care with Buck but am also dedicating “steam room” time in our guest bathroom to help loosen any residual phlegm in his chest and adding some simple fitness exercises to keep him as healthy as possible as he ages.
  • Since Molly can’t physically do all of the demos I had planned, I’m tagging in Buck and a few other helper dogs for my demo videos. Molly loves engaging in training time so I was a bit sad to put her on the sidelines for this, but I think that using multiple dogs for demos will actually be more helpful in the long run (silver lining?).
  • Buck needs to build up his fitness and Molly needs to recover from her injury, so hiking plans will be put on hold for the moment. And that’s okay! The new goal is to find hiking spots after we get through our move, which will also give time for fitness and healing.

Although the new goals are a bit different than the original ones I had planned I think they still manage to accomplish similar things. Pivoting also allowed me to better focus on the emotional and physical wellness of my dogs, getting creative with making educational goals happen, and giving myself permission to put some things on hold until a better time.

So, what goals do you have for your training this year? Are there any that you need to pivot on? If you need support while developing or changing your goals I’d love to hear about what you’re going through!

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