Goal, the small steps along the way

Do not let ambitions over shadow small success.   I read this statement last night after dinner at PF Changs. Last weekend we discovered that there was indeed a PF Changs in the town beside ours; I was so excited.  Not because I love PF Changs but more because it is a familiarity set in a unfamiliar and strange place.  At the end of dinner we got our fortune cookies and this is what one of them held inside.  When I read it I immediately thought of our dogs; all of our dogs, yours, mine, everyone's.

Often when training a clients dog the owner will grow frustrated; it can seem like extinguishing a behavior is just not working when you want it gone very badly.  This is when I have to explain tiny, baby steps.  Infinitesimal success, steps that may otherwise be missed can be big achievements on the way to the big one.  Many years ago I worked with a dog that had an obsession with an ice making machine on a refrigerator.  Every time the owner went towards the fridge the dog started to come unglued.  Once the machine started it was pure nut case behavior, spinning, barking and whining.  What we had to do was desensitize the fridge area first; this meant that we had to change the meaning of walking towards the fridge to the dog.

As we achieved small success we could work our way to the actual ice issue.  I remember the owner becoming frustrated as we worked through.  When she would say "how long is this going to take?"  I would ask first "how long has he been doing it?"  "Three years" was the answer.  As we went through the process I would single out the minute successes that were being missed by the owner.  To create a solid end result you must take your time to the finish line.

That said we can miss the small successes by also looking for something else.  Perhaps you want a flyball dog, maybe a dock diving dog and you have been moving towards one of these with regards to behavior work.  You may be missing tiny alternative behaviors that do not relate to your goal sport.  Your dog might be exhibiting a new control that they had not shown before; you need to recognize these as well.  Maybe you have a puppy who has started to display some nice sitting manners; small perhaps compared to diving off the end of a dock but success none the less.  Living in our human world is most definitely a challenge; some have more of a challenge ahead of them than others.

It is our job as humans living with dogs to not let ambitions over shadow small success.