Picture of a puppyThere are many reasons why people choose to get a dog.  Many seek companionship, desire happiness, and want to improve their physical health.  The addition of irresistible cuteness along with puppy breath permeating through the home will bring new excitement, laughter, and activity.  However, this “intoxicating” experience can interfere with the reality that there is a lot of work involved in raising a puppy.  You want to raise a behaviorally sound and well mannered dog and start off with the best intentions (hmmmm- just like your New Year’s resolutions) but find yourself challenged a month into the process because the puppy is, well…just being a normal puppy.  Despite your initial enthusiasm, you soon discover that a baby (if you have had one) seems much easier.  I have heard from clients frustrated by how much time it actually is taking to focus on housetraining, problem prevention, initial manners training etc…Fortunately, many people seek out the guidance and coaching of a qualified dog trainer who not only communicates effectively on how to implement the actual training techniques, but helps establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound (SMART) goals and objectives.  Knowing in advance how your puppy will develop and mature, the time involved to meet physical and mental demands, the costs for veterinary, grooming, and daily care, prepares you to set realistic expectations.

Another puppyThe number one reason people surrender their dogs to shelters boils down to lack of commitment.  While some people start off with great intentions, they let life’s time demands, and challenges chip away at the fundamental “commitment” to their dog.  According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.9 million dogs are surrendered to shelters due to moving (hey, find a loving home for your pup!, argh…that makes me mad), behavioral issues, financial costs, not getting along with other pets in the household, aging needs, etc…)  Of those, 1.2 million will be euthanized.  These statistics highlight the lack of commitment to the family dog.  In a couple of months countless people will also discover their lack of commitment to themselves.

What’s the difference between intention and commitment?  Considering sitting down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs.  The chicken’s intent is to provide the eggs but the pig is committed to providing the bacon.  

The start of the new year inspires people to strive to new heights in areas of health, personal well being, relationships, and business.  Statistically, most will fall short or fail completely.  The intention is there but not the commitment.

To avoid becoming a statistic, start SMART.   Rate yourself from 1-10 in each category just mentioned.  Prioritize the order by starting with the category with the lowest score.  In each category, prepare to write out a goal to be accomplished in the next 90 days.  You are not going to write down just any goal…it needs to be a SMART goal.  Writing out goals in this format will help you to break things down into manageable steps.  Big goals can seem overwhelming and “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time” -Creighton Adams.

Here is an example for setting a SMART House Training Goal for a new puppy.

S- (specific).  I will teach the new puppy to potty on strip of artificial grass that I have set up in alley by the side of the house

M-(measureable).  I will schedule regular trips to the designated area, use a crate to prevent accidents in the house.  The puppy will begin to provide cues that it needs to go outside by either heading to the back door or ringing a bell at the back door.  I can record the ratio of successes to accidents (if there are any) and note the reduction over the training period.  

A-(achievable).  Absolutely!  A puppy will learn exactly where it can potty if it is not allowed to “practice” anywhere else and if it is rewarded immediately with love, praise, affection, and a small treat.

R-(relevant):  You bet it is!  No one wants a dog that uses the home for a toilet.

T-(time bound):  I will accomplish this within 2.5 weeks

Most people are pretty committed to ensuring a puppy does not use the home for its toilet.

Committing to SMART goals in your own life creates clarity, forcing you to become laser focused and enables you to move into action.  Understand that achieving your SMART goals means going full out and taking responsibility for follow through, even in the face of setbacks.  

Whether it’s working consistently to meet the needs of a new puppy or following through on a personal goal, how committed are you?