A Dog's Life

I am a lot nicer to my dog than I am to myself. Take, for example, learning a new skill.

My puppy is learning to sleep in the laundry room. He’s graduating from his kennel, which will no longer be a part of mommy’s office decor. Yay! He is also learning three new commands: 1) “go to your room,” 2) “stay in your room, and 3) “come out!” Teaching him this new skill and these commands involve lots of encouragement, patience, and treats.

First, he is asked to go into the laundry room, “Go to your room!” I try to sound as enthusiastic as I do when I say, “Want to go for a walk?” The puppy goes into his room. He gets a treat.

I ask him to sit. He sits. He gets a treat.

I tell him, “Come out!” in my most happy dog training voice. He comes out. He gets a treat.

This goes on and on. Eventually, however, I say “Stay in your room!” and put up the new dog gate. He gets a treat. And lots of praise. “You’re such a good boy!” I enthuse. “What a good dog! What a good stay in your room!” Another treat. And then I leave.

A few minutes later, I return. More praise. I leave. This is repeated a few more times and then I let him out. “That was such a good stay in your room!”

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This year, I have decided to learn some new working skills. I am learning to walk on the treadmill while typing and without making too many typos. I am learning to work only 40 hours a week (radical!). I am experimenting with Fixed Schedule Productivity and Completion Centric Planning.

When I make a typo and I’m walking, I often say a curse word. I never get treats. I never say, “Good walk! Good write! What a good typist you are!”

When I work longer hours than expected, I call myself terrible names.

When I slack off, I call myself terrible names.

There are no treats. No praise. No encouragement.

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As I write this, my puppy is sleeping next to the treadmill. He’s such a sweet sociable dog. This is in part due to the fact that he’s always received lots of love and praise. He learned how to be a good dog. I taught him this.

What am I teaching myself when I treat me differently? I say things to myself that I would never say to anyone else, not even my dog, who doesn’t (as far as I know) speak English.

My dog and I both depend on the same person to help them learn new skills. So I am changing my methods with one of us.

“Good girl! Good type! Good write! Here, have a treat.”

About Tara Rodden Robinson

Comments

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of encouragement? I guess it stops for most people pre-puberty, some figure out how to self motivate and others don’t. I think people who are happiest have figured out how to give praise to themselves for accomplishments and move on without dwelling on how others should have reacted in a given situation.

    However, just because we might not receive a lot of praise, there is a ton of power in giving praise. It can change behavior and culture within a home, office or community.

    Great post Tara! And kudos if you wrote it while ticking of miles on the treadmill.

    • Hi Jim,

      Thanks for the comments. Giving praise is huge! So many people feel unappreciated just because the folks who appreciate their efforts don’t say anything. And yes, this post was written while walking. :)

      Have a great week,
      Tara

  2. Yes! I love it, Tara. You’re so loving, present, hopeful toward other people (not just dogs), imagine the power you would have if you turned it inward. ‘You’ meaning ‘me’ of course, as I try to learn this lesson myself. Thank you for opening me up a little and making me smile. That seems like a good first step.

    Kiki

  3. Delightful, fun post, but also seriously good advice. It’s amazing how much can be learned from animals! I take such good care of my goats and am leaning a lot about how to live life better because of it.

    I use the treadmill in the same way. Makes me feel a lot better about my internet time. And I too write while walking, feels great when I’m done, despite the typos!

    • Hey Debbie,

      Great to hear from you. Happy New Year! My dogs are often my best teachers. And I love reading your blog posts about your animals. I remember the one you wrote about your pigs–it made my heart ache. I see you have a “happy light” on your treadmill, too. I’ve used light therapy for years and feel that it’s helped me a lot.

      With love,
      Tara

      • Good to hear from you too! Yes, happy light, good sleep and a tiny bit of Prozac for me this winter. Seeing the sunrise most morning is pretty sweet too. Gotta milk the goats!

  4. Peggy Bishop says:

    Good girl, Tara, to keep walking.
    Good girl, Tara, to improve your typing while walking!
    Good girl, Tara, to be able to laugh a bit at incongruities in your life and address them!
    Good girl, Tara,…er, wait! Great girl!
    You totally rock!

  5. I’m laughing out loud…thanks for sharing! It’s so true. Hooray for the reminder to be kind to ourselves! If you were here with me, I’d offer you treats for noticing that you’ve made a typo, for noticing that you’ve worked longer hours than you would like, and for noticing when you’re doing something out of habit rather than choice. You know…just in case there was a temptation to call yourself terrible names just because you caught yourself calling yourself terrible names (a.k.a. my habit). ;-)

    • Hi Rachel,

      I’m so glad you got a laugh! That’s the best compliment you can pay me as a writer. :) Looking forward to seeing you again soon–which will be a real treat in itself!

      With love,
      Tara

  6. dear Tara,

    what a lovely post! I relate so much!! I spend endless time learning my cute doggie new tricks en praising her, praising her, praising her…with unending (well…) patience. In a few weeks I taught her to give me her paw before getting food or treats and I would never ever have so much patience with myself but we HAVE to be kind to ourselves to survive and live a happy and content life.
    I am really trying to practice that on a daily basis.
    Go girl!!! You rock!!
    Love you!

    Ester

  7. Margaret Winn says:

    Hi, Tara,

    Loved the post! I’m working on trying to train one of my cats, but that is an entirely different kind of story…

    I also really appreciated your links to Fixed Schedule Productivity and Completion Centric Planning. Good food for thought there. I’d come up with my own version of Fixed Schedule over the last week to kick-off with this morning. It was SO encouraging to read your post and links last night — confirmation that I was wasn’t crazy to be trying it, and now I even have a nifty word for what it is. :-)

    Keep up the great work. And I’m so impressed that you’re writing while walking!!! Good Tara, good girl!!!

    Margaret

    • Hi Margaret,

      Yes, cats are a completely different story! They train us, I suspect, not the other way ’round. :) And I’m glad you found those links helpful! I’m thinking of presenting my process once I’ve had time to really “work it.” The author of Study Hacks is going to be a guest on the Virtual Study Group in February, too! Yay!

      Thanks for the praise, too! ;)

      With love,
      Tara

  8. Carol Anne says:

    I was thinking along these lines this weekend, marveling at how good I’ve done so far raising my kids. They’re active, eat well, fairly neat, have good work habits, good self-esteem. I have absolutely none of those qualities. Why can I teach them, and not teach myself? I think I need some M&Ms…

    • Hi Carol Anne,

      I find it so frustrating? Do you? I really think language has so much to do with it. When I put myself down, I’m not making the situation any better. How about some verbal M&Ms? :)

      With love,
      Tara

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