Training a dog is a marathon rather than a sprint. When you first bring your dog home he will take a few years to develop skills and maturity to be able to apply those skills in all situations. In the meantime working on small goals and celebrating the small victories can do so much for your training and your relationship with your dog.
Being able to enjoy the small successes means seeing a skill for what it really is, a bunch of behaviours put together. If you can break up the skills you want to teach your dog into smaller behaviours it means you and your dog will have more rewards along the way. Take the recall skill, it is made up of ‘turn and look when I say your name’ and ‘come’ and sometimes ‘sit’ is put at the end too. That’s three behaviours you can reward and celebrate on their own rather than only acknowledging the one greater skill-less regularly. Smaller behaviour goals are easier to learn and will result in more rewards along the way.
Creating smaller goals along the way will help to keep the expectations of your dog in balance. After all, if your dog is not responding to his name it is highly unlikely to expect him to run towards you when asked. Being able to understand when your dog is ready for something more complicated can only be done after you celebrate a victory over an easier behaviour. Use your celebration as an indicator that you and your dog are ready to move on to something more complicated, this will help manage your expectations.
If you can celebrate the small victories you and your dog will experience less frustration. Frustration usually occurs when we do not understand something or have continually tried something without the desired outcome. Frustration often leads to abandonment of a task, we want our dogs to keep trying and for their sake, it is important that we also continue to try. Smaller goals will limit frustration.
Breaking skills into smaller behaviours that you can reward allows you and your dog to have success much more regularly, this maintains motivation. Motivation is important because dog training can be such a long process and without motivation, you would simply give up.
Create many opportunities by breaking larger skills into smaller behaviours for your dog to have many victories and celebrate them!