Goals

Since our training, I’ve been thinking about what my ultimate goals are for Silas. The truth is, while you read nearly miraculous training stories, those things are not a guarantee. Not even “if I just work hard enough.”

I could hire every coach that money can buy. I could practice four hours a day. I would still never be great at swimming. I’m short and the wrong body shape. I’m not naturally athletic. Now, does that mean that I have to resign myself to the kiddie pool? Of course not. If I really wanted to, I could swim laps, even pretty good ones. But what if I were twelve, and my dad was the only one who cared about me swimming on the team? I really wanted piano lessons, but instead I had to relive someone else’s childhood dream? How good would I get at swimming, then? (Note: this is an example, not a childhood trauma. There wasn’t a swim team in 100 miles of my school.)

I try to keep that in mind when I think about dog training. Is this a significant investment of time, money, and energy, just to do something that makes my dog miserable?

Chewing

Happy dog

It’s hard with a dog, because you can’t exactly say, “Hey, do you enjoy this at all? If we worked through a few things, would this be awesome?”

That’s why I don’t have goals like, “Take Silas to next year’s Pet Expo.” It’s possible that in a year, with a lot of work, he could tolerate it. Maybe after a year of work a miracle would happen and he would even like it, who knows? But it’s not a goal that’s about the dog. It’s a goal that is about ME ME ME, and how I want to do X, Y, and Z with my dog.

I think it’s most useful to look at this from the other side. What does my dog like to do?
–play ball
–tug
–go to the park
–run
–sleep on the sofa
–chase birds off the patio
–meet quiet, friendly people (he will voluntarily seek out people who don’t scare him)
–play with dogs

Now, what are his obstacles to enjoying those things?
–not having good play structure, so sometimes the humans get frustrated
–being afraid of cars
–leash pulling (getting much better!)
–reacting to sidewalk noises
–being scared of loud, fast people
–being much better with dogs than with their people

Fixing those things would be a bona fide improvement in Silas’s quality of life. So, that’s what my “big picture” goals are.

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4 thoughts on “Goals

  1. I totally agree with your mindset on this! Sure, it’d be nice to do a whole lot of things, but it should be about Silas and what he wants to do. Now, not everyone will agree, but, that’s okay too! I find that some of our pack are extremely social and love to go everywhere and meet everyone (that’s blind Hiker and blind Breeze) while others would rather everyone leave them alone (that’s Callie, she’ll never be one to take many places). Yes, fears need to be dealt with but it’s a balance of what is worth dealing with and what doesn’t really matter. I personally don’t want to traumatize a dog because of my wants. Less stressful for the human too. Stick with your big picture goals!

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  2. I am with you on this one! When we got Hurley, I had lofty goals of passing the CGC test and becoming a therapy dog. Thing is, Hurley doesn’t particularly seek out attention and relish in it in the way that a good therapy dog should. So I listened to the dog he was becoming and shelved those goals. He loves to learn, loves to use his nose, loves to be social with other dogs. So therapy isn’t in our future, but learning lots of tricks is. And maybe nose work one of these days. Ultimately, my goal is for them to be happy, well-adjusted, and (relatively) well-behaved dogs. I want to make them feel safe and comfortable in their environment, however large or small they need/want it to be. For Sadie, she took years of needing me to help her feel super secure in our home & neighborhood and it’s only recently that we’ve started expanding her world. Yes, I would have loved her to be that dog we could take everywhere but that’s not what she needed to be happy and it would have further damaged her had we pushed her. But now she is starting to become that dog who enjoys new experiences and new people and I’m starting to think about what new goals are best for her.

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