Dog training objectives, or as I like to call them, attainable goals, need to be set immediately after you have evaluated the clients, their dog and other environmental influences.
The key is to guide the dog owner to set their own achievable goals. By doing this, you:
- Get them to commit to doing the work.
- You have not set dog training objectives that the owner might feel are unreasonable or unattainable.
- Help the dog training goals become more attainable for the owner if the owner sets them.
Your responsibility is to gently guide them into setting their own goals.
Let’s take a look at how this could be accomplished up front at the beginning of your first lesson.
Setting dog training objectives
It’s really very simple. You just ask the client to set them – similar to the following example:
Suzie and Dave’s dog Rover jumps on house guests. It might go something like this:
“Now that we have a clear understanding of Rover’s issues, let’s move forward and talk about a solution to his jumping problem.
I’d like to start with you Suzie. Give me a visual picture of how you would like Rover to act.”
Suzie might respond something like this: “I’m not sure. I just want him to be a nice dog and quit jumping.”
To which you could respond, “I understand but what exactly would you want him to do other than jumping?”
Suzie might answer, “You mean like a sit? I really don’t care if he sits or not as long as he just comes up and gets a pat on the head and then went away.”
And here’s where you begin to set your attainable goals by replying, “I think that sounds both reasonable and possible.”
You would cover each and every issue they brought up with Rover in that way – by getting them to set their own attainable goals.
The next step: Setting a Schedule
Once you have established your behavioral objectives (attainable goals) there is one more thing on the agenda: Setting a schedule.
The schedule is based on two things: how much daily training the owner will commit to doing; and, based on your evaluation of Rover and his owners, how long (in weeks) you would recommend they work him to reach their goals.
Example: Rover should stop jumping in two weeks or three weeks.
Each dog behavior problem for which they set their own attainable goals will require a time schedule. The time schedule and the amount of time they are willing to commit in training will dictate the number of lessons.
I find that in most cases involving jumpy dogs, very little structure has been set and even less consistent daily training (beyond a big-box store group class) has been done. This leaves much to do with all the basic commands to be properly re-taught to Rover.
Now you are in the driver’s seat with your client setting their own attainable goals. And with your guidance on training time, they estimate about how many weeks they need to do the work.
You have of course, already laid out a program of leadership (learn-to-earn pets and praise) as well as scheduled obedience training sessions daily as foundation work for all your behavior modification work you will guide them through.
Hopefully you have been able to form a kind of mental framework on lesson-setting: Attainable goals and schedules set by your client that don’t need justifying.
By asking them the right questions in the correct manner, they’ve indirectly said, “Here’s what I want and I think I can do this in 6 weeks (if that’s your time table for all the issues.)
With a few exceptions, most clients are excited to begin with this new training – and for all the right reasons.
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 10,000+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, dog owners do that influence that dog behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability and experience of mentoring and teaching dog trainers how to excel and grow their dog training talents and their business