Living with intention makes for better dogs, and makes us better artists.
Our new puppy Tuck (he’s the stylin’ dude in the blue bandana) is a delight. Tuck is our first dog ever. He’s a little too smart, but funny, sweet and eager to please. He has already added a lot to our lives. Including a few little puddles and stinky poo piles. (He’s getting much better with housebreaking, though.)
Actually, we’re getting much better with housebreaking. Which is the point of today’s post.
We’re learning that training our dog means retraining ourselves.
This weekend we hired our local “dog whisperer”, Perry Davis, for a one-hour intensive puppy training class. Perry is amazing with dogs. He doesn’t have a website (yet) but if you are interested in his services, please email me privately and I will send you his phone number.
We found we were doing some things right. But there were quite a few things we could do better. And the time to start doing better is right now, in this stage of deep learning, before Tuck hits the human equivalent of adolescence. (Parents of teens know this is when you seem to become invisible and mute to your child.)
This is the time to take advantage of natural tendencies in a puppy (eager to please, follow the leader) to lay down a good foundation for all future training.
Our dog sees us as either a leader, or a follower. We need to establish ourselves as the leaders in every situation.
For example, we’ve been using “come” to get Tuck to go along with us. And already it was not working as well as it should. He was beginning to resist going for walks on his leash, and would end up sitting in defiance while we tugged and lugged on his collar. He loves to go home, though. So I would drive Jon and Tuck downtown, and then they would walk home from there. Not something we want to become a habit.
Perry showed us that we were giving Tuck mixed messages, and not taking advantage of a built-in tendency: A dog his age (four months) wants to follow.
In order to encourage him to do what he naturally would do, we should not face him and ask him to “come”. (“Come” should ask a dog to return to you, not go with you.) We were to turn around, face away from the dog, and go, with the firm command, “This way!”.
We tried it. Sure enough, his compulsion kicked in, and he hurried to catch up. It was amazing! It worked every time. Soon Tuck was walking downtown and back with us again.
My husband Jon, as always, was quick to see the subtle structure beneath the advice and suggestions Perry offered. It was Jon who noted that the sequence also trained us.
Changing the command and the posture also changed the whole balance of energy in the interaction.
“Come” asks for something to come to you–in this case, our dog. It hopes the “something” will come.
“This way!” is you taking charge, you going your way. And expecting that “something” to go along with you.
What an intriguing metaphor….
Of course, there are many times when it’s nice to ask.
And hope is a good thing. It’s always good to have hope.
But there are also times when you need to just get going. “This way!” This is what I want. This is where I want to go. Making our intention clear to the universe.
When we know what we want, when we take responsibility for our journey, all our energy will go into supporting that. Naturally, without fuss, with enthusiasm.
Not without obstacles, of course. There are busy streets and high hills to cross on our walk. There may be setbacks and issues.
But knowing we want to go there will give us the good energy and zest we need to make our way.
Such a useful management tool for dogs. And for us.
P.S. The title comes from an old joke about a guy who named his dog “Physician.” When they went out for walks, he could say, “Physician, heel thyself!”