Recently Berlin and I were hanging out with my friend's four year old daughter, Brie. Very definitively, Brie looked at Berlin's Gulpie (water dispenser) and said, "I don't want any of that dog water."
Of course, this is understandable, but little did Brie know that the beauty of the Gulpie is being able to unscrew the top and drink directly from the bottle, without sipping on the same area from which Berlin drinks. There was an opportunity though, so I took it. Acting appalled and hurt, I asked Brie, "Why don't you want to drink her water? I drink it all time." Being four, Brie was skeptical. So without hesitation, I separated the bowl and took a good swig from the bottle. After bringing it back down, and adding a little cough, as if the water had been stuck in my throat, I swiftly looked up at Brie with alarm in my eyes. Just as her eyebrows began to raise in interest, several barks came out from my mouth, "Woof, Woooof, Wooo...." Ok, by that last one I was cracking up. Once I caught my breathe, I muttered, "Didn't you know, that's how you become a dog?"
She didn't believe me.
To be honest, I wish there was some truth in it because I try to a bit more like Berlin everyday. She is smart, loyal, resilient and
Of course, that being said, the way we live our lives AND share that life with our dogs, should also be very similar. Not just by modeling those admirable qualities, but acknowledging and using a key "secret" to healthy living AND dog training: IMPULSE CONTROL. Of course this is a HUGE CONCEPT. One far to vast to discuss fully in this short blog, but here are a few take away ideas in regards to this large topic.
We all have bad habits, whether we like to admit to them or not. There are ones we practice and others that we subject our dogs to on a regular basis. Snacking on the "wrong" thing. Overeating/feeding. Sitting too much (work, car, channel-surfing). Not getting enough physical activity every day. The list goes on. So, here is the deal. It's estimated that it takes anywhere from 22-200+ days to establish a habit* but no matter what, you have to start somewhere. So, pick ONE of your own personal bad habits and reduce or eliminate it during the month of November. Track your progress with a calendar. Be honest and at the end of the month see how you did, and more importantly, how you feel. If you stick to the plan, you might not just have succeeding in reducing or eliminating your bad habit (and thus perhaps helping to create a new good habit), but may actually start to see/feel a physical difference. It is important to note your accomplishments as well as your challenges, and acknowledge if anything may have contributed to those results each day/week. This is all about making little changes to get to the top, whatever the top may be for you.
Dog training is ultimately teaching your dog to have impulse control. Of course (s)he wants to scarf down this/her food the second it's placed down, but (s)he has to learn to wait until you release them to eat. The same should apply to getting on his/her leash on prior to exiting your home. Invite your dog to sit on his/her place (Berlin has a small rug close to the front door). (S)he has to sit there until the leash is hooked to his/her collar AND (s)he is released. If you're not incorporating both or either of these exercises into your dog's day-to-day routine, I invite you try to add them (Of course, if you need help, shameless plug, Feet & Paws' offers private dog training sessions. Can you say perfect Holiday Gift?!)
Also, impulse control is important for us to use in regards to our dogs and rewards, both food and praise. Too easily, we can give excess treats and positive attention, and sometimes without cause. Invite your dog to do something (or a few somethings..like a set of down's or sit's) to earn a treat or a belly rub. Make sure to adjust his/her meals as needed, accounting for the additional calories from the treats. On the flip side, if you're not in the habit of giving your dog treats, ask yourself what little goody you allow yourself here and there as a reward for even small accomplishments like say, making it to Friday or cleaning up the house. I bet there is something you do for yourself, whether its a special snack or a new pair of shoes. It's ok for your dog to get a little something too, if they earn it.
And lastly, having control does not mean you can't have fun! Make sure that you (and your dog) are enjoying the process. We (dogs and humans) are creatures of habit. Let's just make those habits good ones!
Until next time,
Tracy & Berlin