Last night, I came up with a way to visualize Lyra’s training. On the top level, there are five elements: things I want for — and from — Lyra. The diagram (below) isn’t perfect, because it suggests that “Competitive” is the top-most priority (it isn’t) and that all the elements are equal in my mind (they aren’t; “healthy” and “mine” are by far the biggest). But it’s a start:
Competitive = performance in a sport of some kind.
Healthy = her mental and physical wellbeing
Able = her ability to perform in mundane contexts
Mine = the quality of our relationship and my sense that we’re a team. (This is the selfish one.)
Polite = her ability to be a good citizen
These are like the foundation blocks of my hopes for her. I then tried to articulate the basic goals for each “block” or element, as follows:
Again, these are in no particular order of priority. Each item can of course be broken down into specific training goals (e.g., “heel”). However, any given goal — which, after all, is made up of many parts — can help in more than one area. I’ve tried to show this here:
I can use the following to track what I actually do:
I’m aware of the danger of spending hours organizing charts — instead of training the dog in front of you. However, I’ve (once again) been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of goals. A case of not seeing the forest for the trees. I’m hoping this will bring back the forest; keep it clear in my mind while I work on the details. For example, Lyra used to have a brilliant recall. She’d jack-knife in midair to come back. But lately it’s been a bit sloppy and unpredictable — probably because I’ve not been working on it for months now. Do you see what I mean? I let slide something important to her safety. Just because she has a good memory doesn’t mean that her motivation will stay rock solid. The chart, above, helps me identify which goals are crucial and so therefore need ongoing work (i.e., ones that apply to health and ability).
This system is imperfect. It implies more method than I use; and more distinctions (e.g., between “healthy” and “able”) than I think are really there. I also know that specific goals will change. But it has given me a better sense of how the pieces fit together, which makes the big picture seem less remote.