Celebrate Small Successes

Celebrate Small Successes

By: Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA

We live in an instant gratification world. If we want information, we pull out our phone and Google it. Want to order something? Amazon Prime gets it to you in a day or two. Want to talk to someone? You can call, text, Facetime, DM, etc. We get immediate results in almost every aspect of our lives.


This sets us up to fail when it comes to our training and working with our dogs. Dogs don’t subscribe to the same instant gratification culture we do (although it may seem otherwise when you see them scarf down that piece of food that just dropped to the ground). Yet we want a dog who has spent two years barking at every dog he sees to stop instantly and moreover, like new dogs approaching him! We want a dog who is fearful of new people to happily accept people reaching out to her and petting her.


Training and helping a dog is not like getting the latest update on your phone. There’s no button to download, restart and “fix” them. Dogs are individuals with their own set of experiences, genetics and behaviors. Just like with us, it takes time for new behaviors to replace old behaviors. Training, especially with fearful, reactive or aggressive dogs, is not a quick fix. It takes time, patience and consistency.


The important thing to remember is to celebrate the small successes in your training. Did your dog look at the other dog then look back to you without barking? Celebrate it! Throw a little cheese party for them. Worry about other dogs later. Did your dog let a new person come within five feet when before they had to be ten feet away? Celebrate it! Let chicken bits rain from the sky. Worry about people getting closer on another day.


Don’t get caught in the trap of waiting for the final behavior or withholding reinforcement till that final behavior. Your dog will work better for you when they get positive feedback and you break things down into smaller components. It also reinforces to you and them that progress is being made.


Sometimes dog training can be hard work. Sometimes you’ll think you’ve won and then have a setback. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Give yourself and your dog credit. Breathe and celebrate your small successes.