This is my first time joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! When I read that February's theme is "training goals" my mind took off running. What amazing things can the Paw Print Pet Pack accomplish this year?
I thought about how I'd write about Fenrir, who is by far my biggest training challenge currently, and how I want to keep working hard on his reactivity and impulse control issues. How we're still working hard together to get some basic training stuff perfected, like consistent heeling and a bomb proof stay even around distractions. I'd tell you all about the funner stuff too - like how he's been doing amazing learning to run agility courses and we're (kind of slowly, admittedly) working on a doggy freestyle routine together. For him my biggest goals for 2018 would probably be just to continue working on his problem areas, making as much improvement as possible, as well as learning some fun new tricks that we can potentially incorporate into our freestyle routine.
I'd tell you about Kitsune, and how he's been having a blast learning nosework. How he's been really interested in my freestyle training sessions with Fenrir, so I started incorporating him and teaching him some of the same tricks I've been working on with Fen. How training two dogs at once has been both a challenge and a joy for me, and how I'm planning on doing research on techniques to better train both of my dogs together. I'd write about how, as amazing as Kitsune is, even after 9 years, he's not the best at loose leash walking when he gets excited, and it's for sure something I want to work on more in the coming year. He also has a bit of harness aversion and doesn't like when I try to put his harness on over his head, so I have been working on forming a more positive association with putting on his harness.
I thought about what training goals I would share regarding our newest additions, the tortoises. Hey, it's not only dogs who can benefit from positive training methods! Reptiles, in general, might not be as smart as dogs but there are things you can teach them that can make caring for them a bit easier. I taught my leopard geckos, for example, to come out of hiding when I tap on their tanks and to eat food from feeding tongs. Similarly, I'm working on teaching the tortoises to come when I call them and also helping them get more used to human touch. In a few short months both Koopa and Zam have gone from hissing and not wanting anything to do with me, to coming out of their hides when I call them. They are getting more used to being touched and I'm hoping, by the end of the year, that they might even learn to enjoy a nice relaxing head/shell rub.
I thought about writing all that (ok, and did write all that to be fair), but then started to wonder if making a bunch of training goals for this year was really the best thing for me and my pack. You see, I tend to get a bit obsessive about goals. If I set them, I work hard to achieve them. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but I sometimes go a bit overboard. I get upset and feel like a failure if I don't accomplish the goals I set for myself.
And when it comes to my training goals, they're not all about me. I can't force my dogs to learn certain things in certain amounts of time. They are living, breathing beings with minds and skill levels of their own. I think it's important to be realistic when it comes to training goals. Train the animal in front of you, not the animal you want him/her to be. As much as I'd love for Fen to completely get over his reactivity issues and learn a bunch of new tricks all in the span of a year, realistically that's probably not going to happen - and that's ok! We're going to do our best, and that's really all anyone can ask of us.
But have no doubts, we're going to have fun doing it! Because that's really what positive training means to me. I get to work towards teaching my animal friends new skills while, at the same time, having fun and building an unbreakable bond with them.
So after all that, I decided that our training goals for 2018 aren't going to be things that could really be measured by an outside observer. Fen may still be reactive in some situations at the end of the year. Kit still might not be the best at loose leash walking. Our freestyle routine might still be a mess and I doubt we'll be winning any titles in agility or nosework. But we're going to try our best. I'm going to continue to teach my animals using force free methods that help to build our relationships and trust in each other. I'm going to respect my pets for who they are, respect their individual skill levels and interests, take training them as slowly as they need me to, and not impose potentially unrealistic goals on them. And we're going to have fun!
Click the cute blue frog above to view other participants in this month's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop!