I know, I know. Telling people your goals for your dog’s training for the upcoming year smells very much like new year resolutions and we all know they suck.

But I’m going to do it anyway. Why? Because accountability. Although I suspect my goals this year are pretty similar to previous years to be honest.

Why then am I so sure that 2020 is going to be different if I’ve told you about these plans before?

Because this time I’m going to treat myself like one of my dogs. Or a client.

I’m pretty sure that my actual training of a behaviour is not too terribly bad. At least most of the time. And if I pretend for a second that I’m actually a proper dog trainer and keep data and plan sessions like I’m supposed to, even on my worst day that makes sure I’m still an adequate trainer.

Where I fail, is where pretty much every client I ever work with eventually fails. Assuming motivation will make you do the thing.

It won’t.

What is motivation anyway? Is it something we can measure? Something that we can prod and make bigger?


I’m suggesting that when we say an individual is motivated, what we are saying is that they are showing a suite of behaviours that we label motivation.

Oh Kelly, jeez are you going to lecture us about labelling stuff again and how it’s not helpful? I hear you ask.

Nah, it’s OK you’re safe, I’m just going to say that I don’t think you can do anything special to increase your motivation. Instead we need to look at the behaviour science which will tell us – define the behaviours we want to see more of, set the environment so they occur and reinforce the f**k out of them so they happen more often. Then like magic you will be doing those behaviours that were once so difficult to motivate yourself to do – because they now lead to reinforcement. And everyone will think you’re a super motivated and disciplined person. Which I guess you are, but because you’re a brilliant trainer who uses strategic reinforcement. It’ll be our little secret if you like.

So what behaviours do I need to change in myself so I actually get around to doing what I need to train my dogs successfully.

  • Create a behaviour plan for dog(s). This includes setting time to observe what they are already doing before I then come up with plans to change things.
  • Actually do the things in the plan.

That’s the biggest sticking point for many people so as part of my behaviour plan for the dogs I’m going to actually analyse what I do in those scenarios. What I need to do instead/differently, and then crucially, change my environment so that it is easy for me to do the things that I want to.

You see if it was easy for me to already do what I need to do to see decent change, I’d already be doing it. That means if I want to change it, it’s going to be hard, especially at first, even if I know it might make my life easier later on. I’m not immune to the laws of learning, those same laws that I’m relying on to change my dog’s behaviour work against me if I don’t consider how they are impacting on my own behaviour. If I want to change what the dogs are doing, I’ve got to change me first.

So the things I’m going to tackle this year are:

  1. Being able to dremel Fraggle and Flint’s nails.
    • I can clip Fraggle’s but it’s not as smooth as I’d like it to be and I’d like to be able to shape them better which I can do better with a dremel. Flint is thus far stuck on filing his own front nails – I hold a chopping board with sandpaper stuck to it and he scrapes his nails down it. He still has issues with his feet being touched. We’ve made slow progress, mainly because I’ve been slapdash with how I’ve tackled it. Time to step up and do this properly.
  2. Walking Fraggle and Flint on lead together. As in without shoulder damage an ongoing concern – my shoulders and Fraggle’s actually the way she scrabbles about.
    • Loose lead walking in a group is probably my least favourite thing to train. I’m mean I’m pretty rubbish at doing the required amount of training for loose lead walking with a single dog if I’m brutally honest with myself. Flint isn’t too bad generally. Fraggle is a freaking nightmare. So I’ve got my work cut out here, but putting it off and making out like I don’t care about it isn’t going to get it done either.
  3. Doing absolutely anything with Breckin, doesn’t matter what but making sure he gets his turns everyday.
    • Just because he is old and showing signs of cognitive decline shouldn’t mean that we do less. Actually with the signs of cognitive decline it perhaps means we should be doing more.

So how am I going to make sure I get this done?

Planning. I use the SCRUM system of planning at work and over the last 18months or so I’ve used the same system when working with private clients. It’s a little mangled because behaviour is never done but it’s been working pretty well.

I’m going to do my thinking for sessions upfront so that I reduce the brain load required to complete a session. All I have to do is pick up the clicker and treats and do what it says on the plan.

I’m setting up antecedents to make doing the training easier:

  • Dremel on permanent charge so it’s always available.
  • Pots of treats and readily available clickers in the locations I’m going to do the training.
  • Each week’s training plans written up on the whiteboard in full view.
  • Post it notes or other prompts in key locations to remind me what to do if I need to change my behaviour in certain scenarios.
  • Follow Shade Whitesel’s advice for identifying different locations for training and work each behaviour through the locations in a systemised way.
  • Where necessary block out time in my day to do the training – particularly for sessions that need to happen in the different locations.
  • I need reinforcement as well as my dogs – I’m going to have a sticker chart and give myself sparkly dinosaur and unicorn stickers for each session I do. OK, not an antecedent, but the sticker chart being out on display waiting for the stickers is.

You’re jealous of my stickers aren’t you?

So there are my training plans, what are yours?