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Without a Plan Goals are just Dreams

Originally Feb 26, 2022

Corgi with a food puzzle
Yadi working to get his food out of a puzzle

It takes time, patience and dedication to train your dog. Think of it as a journey. When you go on a road trip, you need a plan and an idea of where you want to go and what you are going to do when you get there. You most likely would have planned out your route and got your map ready on your gps. Granted there are some that just say "Let's get in the car and just drive". I however, am NOT one of those people. Dog training is also not one of the things that can fall under that free for all mindset either. You need to know what it is you are going to be teaching over all so that you don't shoot yourself in the foot.

So I have two in-board service dogs that I am training. They are both young retriever puppies and love having something in their mouth. It's not always the things they are allowed to carry in their mouths. I heard my husband saying to one of them Leave it. I looked and she had my slipper in her mouth. My normal response to this behavior would be a leave it, but with her being a service dog in training she needs to be praised for picking things up as that will be one of her tasks. If I teach her not to pick things up I'm going to make it much harder on myself later on down the road. Instead I put out my hand and asked her to bring i

t to me. We have to learn to pick up all different textures from any kind of environment.

Corgi with a cup in his mouth
Yadi trying to steal a cup

By asking her to bring me the items she is getting, I'm working her retrieve task work and building confidence in her to pick up anything and everything. While also teaching her to pick up the things I

ask for or I drop. When we are working with not picking up specific things like stuff that could be dangerous, I just don't use the leave it cue. Instead I just guard the object and reward her for leaving it alone.

I have found that with a lot of people who struggle with retrieves, it's because when puppy was young they were reprimanded for putting things in their mouth. Then at a later date when you want the pup to pick up something, you have already taught them NOT to put things in their mouth. You often find that behaviors tend to play off each other when you are training. like building a house. You have to pour your foundation before you can put up the walls, like teaching a release word before trying to teach stay.

If you have a plan laid out detailing what your training goals are you can avoid this type of situation. When I was working as a Senior Trainer/Mentor at Petco we often taught our apprentices about SMART planning.

Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Timely

Set a goal for the specific behavior you want to teach. What does this behavior look like? How will it impact your training overall?

The easiest way to make sure you are measuring your progress towards your goal is to either record your training sessions or keep a training journal with all the details of the practice you are doing and how you are moving closer to your goal.

Is your behavior goal Achievable? Remember that you must have realistic expectations of your dog and yourself. If you have a full-time job and a family to take care of, you may not be able to also train your dog to compete in Competition Obedience trials in 4 weeks.

Is your behavior goal Relevant? How will this behavior be useful to your training goals in the end? Yes, you can always teach your dog to shake, but If your goal is to teach your dog not to jump all over people how relevant is teaching your dog to shake?

For it to be Timely, you will be setting a date during training that you will compare your methods of measuring your progress to see how far you have come. Upon assessing your progress then you must now set another future date to measure your progress again.

If you would like more information about training plans or how to make a plan for your training journey, please feel free to email me at

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