Set Goals; Make them SMART

I know it seems rudimentary….. this idea of “goal setting”. I am in the midst of writing a weight pull book, and within that book, I talk about setting goals BEFORE you start training. Write them in a notebook, on a whiteboard above your bed, carry them with you written in pen on your wrist… I don’t care. HAVE a goal.  Not only should have a goal for the long term, but have a goal for every single training session. I am at a work conference unrelated to dogs, and one of the speakers at a conference brings up the acronym of SMART goals. It is indeed very much applicable to dogs, resistance training or behavior training, or your own personal life….it doesn’t matter. Having a goal in mind prior to start of a session will help you achieve the most from your time with your dog. Here is what that stands for:


S- Specific. Make this as detailed as you can, whether it’s session #1, or session #100. Be sure you are making a goal that sets a clear end in mind. This can be as small and detailed as you want, or a larger goal… but be specific.  Clarity is not only good for dogs, but you also! Don’t change your mind half way through a session either. Be clear and consistent throughout.


M-Measureable. Be sure the goal is able to be measured, not some bullshit “In 5 years statement….” Make it realistic to hold you accountable.  Your measurement can be in time, weight, distance, enthusiasm level (for my students in CRT). Understand the meaning of that measurement.


A-Achievable. This is fairly self-explanatory but I will reiterate this idea. Keep your goals within reach, for both you and your dog. Be fair in what your aim to achieve is within each session.


R-Realistic. This was already stated, but keep your goals realistic, not just for you, but for your dogs.


T-Time-Specific. Set a time frame in which you want to accomplish this goal. It could be something specific to training in a session, or what you hope to gain in a week. Set a timer. (maybe not a real one, but you get the idea!)



 Now this might seem super easy for some people….. so easy, that reading the blog was a waste of time. But far too often, we don’t do a great job of determining a goal BEFORE our sessions. We get sidetracked, or change the expectation midway. I am guilty of this, so to hear this acronym was a very helpful reminder. The purpose of setting SMART goals however, is to go back and reassess. It is a way to help us keep improving and building and striving for something better. Goals allow us to see the small victories within the larger picture, whether that's competitive training for weight pull, or not blowing up at the neighbor’s dog.  Far too often, we go out with our dog for a training session… maybe it’s not resistance training but with a tug toy, ball on a string, a slat mill, or an agility course …..and we don’t KEEP these goals in our mind. We end the session and never revisit the goals we set. If we are unsuccessful in our session, we need to make adjustments, figure out what didn’t work, what did work. Goal setting is helpful, just make sure they are SMART.


Ashley Sculac