By Debby Kay ©2016 all rights reserved
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Rohn
Keeping yourself motivated to do something, to accomplish that goal you set as your New Year’s resolution, seems to be a difficult task for many people. I know through dealing with people who want to train their own dogs, they will be very eager and fully engaged during the workshops I teach, but once they get home, they lose momentum in their training program. No doubt it is not easy to stay on task but there are some techniques I have learned over the years that help me to stay focused when training the dogs and reach those goals I have set.
As Jim Rohn pointed out in the quote I took from one of his seminars, part of success at anything is making a habit of doing things. This is particularly true with dog training. By this I am not talking about big projects, overwhelming goals, or multiple miracle accomplishments. To make a habit of succeeding, you need to start small.
For example in my online training course, Sweet Snoopers, I have broken the course down into very small lessons, so you and your dog can experience successes as you build your habit of training. Setting appointments for training time is another good tool for developing the habit. Most people carry a cell phone with them, so it is easy to set a daily alarm to remind you that it is time to train. If you make it a rule to not ignore the reminder, you’d be surprised how quickly you will develop the daily habit of training your dog. I caution you, though, don’t fall into a rut with your training, take a little time to review what you need to teach, keeping it interesting by changing elements of the training (such as location or distractions). Your dog will love this and you will begin to see a difference in the behavior of your dog as you work more with them. When I hold a 4-day or longer workshop we always see a huge improvement in the dog’s behaviors just because people are spending the time with their dogs.
Once you get in the habit of the regular training and purposeful interaction with your dog, that is the point that you begin to see miraculous progress in your dog’s responses. I really feel that many people can prevent a lot of their problems with their canine companions if they would only follow this simple advice. As cold as January is where I live, I still take the dogs out for their daily walks and exercise and we still do at least two training sessions a day. It’s not easy to give up the warmth of inside to spend time outside training, but it is necessary because service dogs go everywhere with their people, so they have to learn to do their lessons in the cold outside as well. With my tracking dogs, I still track in the winter for much the same reason as I train service dogs outside—the scenting conditions are different and the dogs have to learn and experience that set of parameters before I consider them fully trained.
Here’s a short list to help you keep on track with your training and make it a habit:
- Set appointments in your cell phone, calendar, or computer for your training sessions and don’t break the appointments.
- Keep the times and length of the sessions doable for your lifestyle but don’t cheat the dog of his time either—find a balance.
- Consult with a professional trainer in your area to locate groups you might join occasionally for a few group training sessions. Peer pressure and a little informal competition can be useful to keep you motivated.
- Post your questions to my Facebook page.
- Download my free Achievement Ladder, print it and post on your fridge to remind yourself of what you need to do with your dog each week.
If you are training your own service dog and you are not a professional trainer, it can be a daunting task. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Partner with the proper experienced professional if you need to—it will be money well spent.
I liked what one of my students said about her medical alert dog and his training:
“It’s my life he is saving so the least I can do is spend the time helping him to be the best he can be.”