Visualisation in training

Visualisation as a technique involving forming positive images to achieve a particular goal is used in many areas of life. It’s not a post on how to do it (positive, present, detailed is pretty much enough, though) but I thought I’d mention it as I do it a lot when I want something from my dogs.


I have a perfect, detailed image of what I want my dog to be, I’ve seen it in my head many times. Curious and independent but reasonably well-behaved and attentive, responsive but thinking for himself. Playful and full of life but not vicious or aggressive. Reliable and confident that he can rely on me.


Each of my actions can bring me closer to this image. Or set us back. So before I react, I check my reaction against the image. Would it work, would it make Brian (or Lily) associate the situation with what I intend to? If not, why-and what can I change?


I believe there’s always a way to get to my goal. But I do need to know the goal first.


43 thoughts on “Visualisation in training

  1. Your last sentence said it all……. and has applications far beyond training dogs. If you cannot define the goal, how can you ever achieve it? Ideally, a goal should be measurable such that you can not only note the progress towards that goal, but know exactly when it is reached!

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      1. oh, thanks (I actually enjoyed guessing what it was about! Kind of, like when you first read ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce or T.S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ and you like the quirkiness of it. And then you read the footnotes. And it’s good, but different…)

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      2. Thank you 🙂 I’m sure if my dogs could talk they’d tell me they have no idea what I’m on about most of the time…the thing is, they accept me all the same (or so I want to believe) 🙂

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      1. colour is a human concept, my green is (apparently) not everyone’s green (I’m being serious here, our brains perceive colours in different ways, but because it’s consistent for each individual, we just call it something i.e. ‘green’ and assume it’s the same in every brain)

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    1. Thank you, I don’t think it’s a virtue, generally-this overthinking 😉 But I try to harness it-and when it comes to dogs (and people) sometimes it’s good to stop and ‘overthink’ how they might feel and why 🙂 Not good when I’m shopping (me: ‘Put it back’, Hedgehog: ‘Why? I like it’, me: ‘It’s made in China, it might be toxic, it’s been flown or shipped here using energy needlessly, the workers’ rights are violated there, you’re not supporting your local community’ Hedgehog puts the object back with a sigh. I find it at home the next day. We never talk about it again.

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      1. Ah. I see…you could always adopt the approach I now use. My partner is a hoarder/junk collector, and he just used to ignore my anti-junk rants, so now I smile sweetly and say :”But darling it’s horrible! You know how sensitive Charlie is…” and he usually puts said item back. If that fails, distraction…” Look! Football/snooker/ darts is on tonight!”

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      2. Sensible things are fine..but there’s a limit to how many hosepipes we need, for example. I drew the line at a neon orange crinkled one as it looked like a concertina-ed snake. I said it would scare the cats..I don’t actually know if it would, but I thought it might..:)

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  2. Hold it a sec, guys – we cats don’t change! We are purrfect already.
    I am fascinated by the visualization concept, though. Verbalizing goals, either orally or in writing, is what I teach my students. Breaking goals into measurable objectives and assessing progress from one objective to the next was the backbone of my method, but visualizing is opening a whole new vista. I’ll try it with students this semester! Thanks, Alex, for a great idea!

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    1. It’s my past in athletics, I used to think it wasn’t necessary but it made a difference-so I ended up using it more often than I thought I would 🙂 I might not be spiritual or religious but I like a bit of neuroscience (applied to psychology or sociology) to make up for it 🙂

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      1. I’m not sure how much gestalt it is, but psychology is used in sport and business more than anywhere else (because of the money). Neuroscience as well-for the same reason. Big companies are not keen on sponsoring people with mental issues, it’s not glamorous enough. But they’ll pay a psychologist to work with an athlete 🙂

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      2. When I was involved first in athletics, then in competitive ballroom dancing, it was in that kafkaesque country where money was an abstract concept and psychology was only one step behind genetics and cybernetics being called “the imperialistic whore” (продажная девка империализма). I’ve done some workshops on multicultural communication in the workplace for corporations and government agencies, though, so I can see your point.

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      3. Whenever you write something in Russian I have to read it out loud. Even “the imperialistic whore” sounds better in Russian…funnily enough, I wonder if money and psychology are sometimes more of a hindrance in professional sport. But then, I liked competing, so the idea of ‘participating not winning’ was alien to me then. So any help was welcome 🙂

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