Dog Agility Goal Setting is a Skill to Develop

goal settingThere is a great saying that goes, “Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way.” And while we do learn from the past “setting up camp” there is a really bad idea. Don’t get too hung up on analyzing the past.  There’s a certain point where it no longer does any good, and you have to grab hold of the positive things the future holds.

Goals are for Things That Take Time

We all need long and short term goals. The short term goals are steps you achieve on your way to your long term goal. One of the best ways to fail at your goals is to think they are too big to accomplish. Think about this, not setting goals because they take too long is like a man who says, “I would love to sit in the shade of a tree in my yard, but it takes so long for a tiny sapling to grow into a shade tree.” So he doesn’t plant the tree.  Every year for 10 years he says the same thing and sadly realizes that if he had just planted the sapling when he first thought of it, he’d be sitting under it and enjoying the shade today!

Begin With End in Mind

Assuming that you already have long term goals in mind, how can we ensure that we actually keep them?  After a lot of reading and failing there is one tip I have found to be highly inspirational in the difficult process of writing down and sticking to your goals. Begin with the end in mind. It is also called the “Top-Down” approach. By committing yourself to the end first, through some creative ways, you “lock down” your goals and root them into your future long before you work out the process to get there! Much the same as foundation work with your dog.

For example, one of your goals is to see your dog flawlessly run 12 poles for the first spring competition.  You could just keep the goal in your head, and “hope” that you achieve success, or send in your registration for the event NOW! Not a minute later. Then plan all the details of the event, including emailing a babysitter, telling your husband, or inviting a friend to go with you! Bringing others into the goal will lock in the success of your goal by providing accountability.

This is just an example, we are all different.  Choose those things that you find highly motivating to you.  You may want to choose an out-of-town trial you’ve always wanted to go to and make it really special by reserving a hotel nearby. Here are some more ideas to keep your goals on track.

  • Schedule a party to celebrate an agility title you intend to achieve.  Buy invitations and fill them out ahead.
  • Write a newspaper announcement or invitation, and send it in. They will hold it for your scheduled date.
  • Plan a night out or a day off for goals reached. Make it all about a celebration for you, doing whatever it is that you would find highly enjoyable, and plan every detail with anticipation.
  • Ask your agility trainer to call you or email you for updates on your progress in a certain area, this adds more accountability. Schedule, if they will, a review of your problem areas and/or proofing-test on a certain date.
  • A great fix for inability to plan goals is to write them in the past tense, as if it has already been accomplished.   Write about how good you feel, and how much better your dog is doing, and the types of things you look forward to doing next.  Write about the pitfalls that occurred along the way and the strategies you used to overcome them and accomplish your goal.

It may seem like it’s too early or risky to commit to a deadline or celebration event, but the more prep work you do ahead, the higher the chance you will stick to the goal! I liken the motivation of this top-down method to a wedding.  You wouldn’t set a date and invite guests and not be ready for it when the time came!  You would be ready, not only because you would be looking forward to it, but also because it would be a date that many people would know about. You would have spent hours imagined every detail in advance for my happiness, and the happiness of everyone who would be rejoicing with me.

Next Steps

After you have deeply committed to your goal, you can then break it down into smaller, more easily obtainable goals. For example, if you want to learn 12 weaves by a certain date, make the smaller goal to learn 6 or choose a specific method and follow the steps in teaching it. You can start with Susan Garrett’s DVD “12 poles in 12 days, or get a VersaWeave training set that will turn into a competition set when you reach your goal..bonus! You can even apply the same “top-down” principle (setting a date/event) to your smaller goals as well if needed.

I hope some of these ideas spark some ideas for you!  Goal setting is hard work, but if you can actually see them in your future and work from the top down, then the hardest work is done!  Actually doing what you set out to do becomes a lot easier when you are really committed to something.