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goal setting

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S.M.A.R.T Goal Setting

S.M.A.R.T! We love this acronym when it comes to goal setting. So just what does it stand for and why should you use it when setting your goals?

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Timely


Here’s the thing, setting a goal of ‘I would like Flossy to get more clear rounds at our next competition’ is too vague! Its hard to set as a goal as there are too many variables. Let’s think about it, to get a clear round your dog has to: run the course handled by you in the right order, keep all the bars up, take obstacles accurately and fluidly so refusal faults aren’t given, hit contacts, hit weaves entries and exits. Gosh! That’s A LOT!!!

  • So rather than set a goal of ‘more clear rounds,’ what you need to do is unpick all of the elements that a clear round comprises of.
  • We suggest picking no more than two skills to focus on at a time. We’ll give the example of contacts and weaves, yours could be any skill – get thinking what you need to work on!
  • Now the goal is: ‘I want Flossy to get 100% contacts and weaves at our next competition’.
  • Two things have now come in to play; First of all you now have something tangible that you can train: Contacts and weave proofing! Get that training plan written! Get to work!
  • The second thing is, when you next take Flossy into the ring and Flossy hits 100% contacts and weaves, how good are you going to feel?!!! You’re going to feel AMAZING! YOU ACHIEVED YOUR GOAL! Woohoo!!!! The rest won’t matter, even if your run ended with an elimination!
  • We love the saying; focus on the process rather than the outcome. It’s a better headspace to be in.


Measurable goals means that you identify exactly what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements.

Yesterday we gave the example of the goal of 100% contacts and weaves at your next competition. This goal is measurable as you can collect data on whether you achieved this goal or not.

  • After a run grab that pen and paper and write down what happened.
  • Did your dog get 100% contacts and weaves in that run? Yes! Great! Goal achieved!
  • If not don’t panic, its just information for you but its important to note it down so you don’t forget.
  • Be specific with what did and didn’t go to plan; for example, if your dog hit 2 out of 3 contacts note down which ones were a hit and which one was a miss.
  • This information is gold, its what you can use to form your training plan for the next couple of weeks.
  • You’ll know what area you need to focus your training on!


Ok, its really lovely to have dreams and we truly believe that dreams turn into goals when you write them down, but when we are goal setting we have got to be realistic!

We don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but if you and your dog are currently in Grade One its high unlikely that your dog will get to Agility Champion level within the same competition season! For sure you can have this as a goal, but maybe increase the timescale!

So when setting your goals, ensure that they are attainable. And do you know what, it doesn’t matter how small your goal is, if its realistic your more likely to achieve it and we all know how good it feels when we achieve a goal.

Attainable goals are important for your head space. If you set your goals out of reach and you don’t achieve any of them, you’ll feel bummed out and that’s not a good place to be.


When goal setting the main questions to ask yourself are; why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?

  • Goal setting is a personal experience, your goals shouldn’t be influenced by anyone else or what other people are doing. This is your journey, don’t concern yourself with other people’s agendas or business.
  • Competition brings out the very best and the very worst in people and we have always got to remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing.
  • If you stick to what YOU want to achieve and focus on that, that’s all that counts. Nothing else matters!
  • Look in the mirror; that’s your competition!


  • Everybody knows that deadlines are what makes most people switch to action.
  • So install deadlines for yourself and go after them.
  • BUT!!! And this is a big but, keep the deadline realistic and flexible. Life happens, right?! So we need to give ourselves a break sometimes if something blocks us from achieving our goal on time.
  • Being too stringent on the timely aspect of your goal setting can have a negative impact on achieving your goals. It can turn it all into a crazy race against time, which is most likely not how you want to achieve anything!

Check out more of our Thursday Training Tips HERE.

kelly-murrellAbout the Author: Kelly Murrell helps out with some of the work in the office at Devon Dogs, particularly with marketing and advertising. She used to work in the office at East Bowerland Farm, and recently moved to Vancouver Island, Canada with her husband. She is an avid dog trainer and regularly posts dog training tips for Devon Dogs, Bowerland and Progressive Paws.

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