Building your own Missions

In the last module, I provided you with a Mission Cheat Sheet. Now, to look at how to build missions on your own. 

If you have a green light, you can move on to build a new mission based on the success of the last mission. You might consider running an assessment once weekly to see how your dog is doing and if you can take bigger steps or if you need to step back. We do assess our dog each mission, but I do like to do a weekly assessment as we did in the very beginning, where we determine the baseline. 

Here is a reminder about how to run an assessment:

Get ready as you normally would if you were going out for a short absence, (convenience store, grocery shopping, coffee with a friend, errands, etc). Be normal. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary as that will also cause your dog to feel anxious and suspicious. This might include shoes, coat, keys, phone, wallet/purse, hat, as an example.

  1. Leave in the most natural way possible, locking the door behind you (make sure you have your keys!) and walk away. If you live in a building, walk down the hall so that you are out of earshot. If you live in a house, walk down the driveway or around the corner of the house, out of sight. Wherever you go, ensure that you can get back to your dog within 30-60 seconds if things go haywire! Don’t drive away or take an elevator ride. 
  2. We generally run assessments for less than five minutes, but it will depend on the dog: 
    1. If your dog panics and is being destructive or injuring themselves, come back immediately to prevent that from continuing. 
    2. If your dog is pacing/vocalising, wait a minute or so and then return.

What we are looking for is to see how long they are relaxed, at what point they show mild signs of stress, and at what point they hit their threshold and start displaying the typical signs that you have observed in the past (usually vocalisations or scratching at the door, for example). Once we see that, we don’t need to see any more – we can come home and make a plan based on this information. 

When you have done this, you might find that your dog who has worked up to a relaxed 3min can actually handle 5min before showing signs of worry. If that is the case, we can aim for 5min as the end goal in the next mission!

Remember that all dogs progress at different paces and there is no “right or wrong” – it simply is what it is. Train the dog you see in front of you, not the dog you think you have.  

When building up these missions, you will be taking the last successful mission, turning the amber steps into green steps, and turning the red steps into amber steps, creating new, more challenging red steps that are right on their threshold or just a hair past. You have to build on the progress you have! 

Click “​NEXT LESSON” to learn about how to integrate elevators, your car, and walking away from the home.

Lessons in this Course: