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Process Goals

The Winter Olympics are taking place in Pyeong Chang.  

I've heard commentators talk about how, when in high pressure situations, competitors need to focus on process goals. This is a new term to me, so I made a quick internet search.

In his book Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Alan S. Kornspan, breaks goal setting down into different categories.

  • Subjective and objective goals.

  • Outcome and performance goals

  • Process goals

Subjective and Objective Goals

Subjective goals are not about a specific performance, they are more general and flexible. Just going out for a walk and trying ones best with a dog labelled reactive is a subjective goal. 

Objective goals are performance related. With our sensitive dogs an objective goal may be to walk on lead past one other on lead dog, whilst keeping emotional control. This specific objective goal helps owners stay focused on achieving one goal in a situation they have previously found overwhelming. 

Outcome and Performance Goals

Outcome goals are related to winning and losing, success or failure. Too much focus in this area and we can lose motivation, especially if we feel there are more failures than successes! 

Performance goals are related to measurable components that can help us improve what we are trying to do. One of the first things we often do when teaching owners how to walk with sensitive dogs on lead, is change the way they hold the lead handle. Remembering to hold the lead this way for each walk is a performance goal. 

Process Goals

Process goals are closely related to outcome and performance goals. The advantage of focusing on these goals is that they remain firmly under our control. We encourage owners of sensitive dogs to create some new routines. This may mean making some big changes as previous routines have become associated with emotionally charged reactions. However, we have found that creating new routines associated with positive experiences really helps a sensitive dog to learn. 

Goals under our control

We always start the Discovering the Confident Canine courses with some round the table discussion. It isn't unusual to hear owners talking about how embarrassed they feel by their dogs behaviour, how often they have apologised for their dogs reaction to another dog or even how often they avoid places where other dogs are likely to be present. It isn't unusual to hear stories of helplessness in the face of 'friendly'(?) off lead dogs.

I can empathise and know this feeling very well! However by focusing on the reactions and opinions of other people and judging success or failure on the reactions of others means that we are handing over control of meeting our goals to people (and other dogs) that we have no influence over. This can become very demotivating and it is understandable when folk give up. 

What to do?

  • Find an ethical trainer who trains using positive methods.

  • Keep a journal - take photos or videos, you might be surprised how far you have come

  • Find a positive, supportive community who understand, getting feedback from others who have been there and know how you feel can keep you going. 

Happy Learning


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