I love goals! They are road maps, helping us arrive at a planned destination. I seriously have a list of Dog Goals on my refrigerator.
But goals can be a double-edged sword.
Goals generate certain expectations of ourselves and others. For example, to meet my goal Sparkle is required to master the exercises in the utility class. It is not Sparkle’s idea to learn which glove to grab or which jump to take — that is my agenda, my expectation, my goal.
Humans have an unfortunate tendency to react with anger, disappointment, and/or frustration when we do not get what we want or think we deserve from others. Even if we mute our response, those reactions are emotional triggers to dogs.
It is the nature of dogs to be keenly aware and responsive to their humans, and a message that there is something not quite right won’t be missed.
But it is the nature of a human to experience a full range emotions — in fact, it is a Bad Sign if we cannot.
So how are we to manage this seeming conundrum in Life with Dogs — the human need to emote but in ways that do not negatively impact a dog’s performance?
Easy peasy — we change our thinking.
Thoughts are what trigger emotions, and unless you are being remote controlled by one of your electronic devices, you are in charge of what you think — and therefore, what you feel.
An emotional response to, '“Damn dog is blowing me off again” or “This is humiliating” will be very different from thinking, “How can I better support her understanding of my expectation?” or “I love this dog so much!”
This where the assumption of good intentions leap into the conversation.
Unless you are Miss Polly Perfect, it is much more likely that your dog’s so-called failure to meet your expectations is due to YOU. She wasn’t trained well enough for the conditions, you are being a Hot Freaky Mess, your cues got all stiff and weird in the ring, and so on.
If we assume good intentions of the dog — that she is doing her very best with the information and training we have provided — it is hard to be frustrated and disappointed with said dog.
However, we must be careful not to transfer the negativity to ourselves. Holding the dog blameless while mentally beating ourselves up for being an imperfect human being keeps the bad vibes in the training relationship.
FYI: An imperfect human being is the only kind there is. Are you a robot?!
You, the imperfect human being, are doing your best. Assume good intentions of yourself — your dog already does.
When we remove all that negativity in our thinking — about the dog and/or ourselves — we transform our training.
I have the ability to manage my thinking — and therefore feelings — around goals and expectations but even more, I have Perspective — and that is the real secret to keeping Life with Dogs infused with joy even when we miss our mark.
Oh Zoey — how I wish I could have one more hour with you.
And because she knew that she was nothing but pure joy to me, she would choose to spend that hour training — and it would look like this:
Dream your big dreams, and have those great expectations. But just know that a dog’s life is short — do you really want to waste one second of it on frustration, anger, and/or disappointment?