As this month goes by, I realize that keeping my commitment to writing this blog on a regular basis is not unlike dog training. This time, I am learning to train myself. I often find that I fill my days up with “to dos” and before I know it, I have run out of time. I have lists on paper, lists in my head, lists on my phone and lists on my computer. Then there is the incorporating of all those thoughts, ideas and reminders into their final resting place. I have a lot of balls in the air and I find that the best way for me to keep this commitment, no matter how busy I am, is to make a promise to myself. I have a lot of things in my life based on unspoken promises, but real promises nonetheless. Whether it is that I will honor and respect my friends and family, take care of my furry critters and make sure they are happy and well-cared for, or honor my commitment with whatever particular job I have taken on. Keeping promises to yourself are sometimes the hardest. Think about those New Year’s Resolutions I talked about earlier last month. Consistency, focus, commitment and being willing to pick yourself up when you fail or falter – all part of dog training as well as life training!
I tell people to try to work with your dog every day. Every day. People say “Sure, but I have a bunch of stuff I already have to do every day. I don’t have time to work with my dog every day.” But not every day needs to be about learning a new trick or task. Sometimes it is just as simple as rewarding for good behavior (sitting quietly while you eat dinner or coming to you quickly when called). It can be a quick game of hide and seek. It can be a group of “sits” and “downs” and “stays”. Your dog loves to work with you. It is rewarding for them just to be a part of your life. Before you know it, it will also be one of the most rewarding and satisfying pieces of your day.
Like most things in life though, there is a caveat. When I say “Work with your dog every day”, I really should be saying “Work with your dog every day, unless you are not capable in those moments of working WITH your dog”. Everyone has those days when either nothing goes right or someone has yelled at you at work or you’ve had an argument with a loved one or you’re not feeling well or you’re just completely maxed out and have nothing to give. Your dog will forgive you for not wanting to do a training session. Being angry, impatient and/or frustrated makes for a bad training session for you and your dog. Sometimes this can create more harm than good. You want your dog to look forward to working with you, not dread sessions because you have not been very pleasant to be around. Remember, your dog doesn’t know that you had a bad day at work. It is actually an excellent time though to bond with your dog. Providing emotional support on those days isn’t really about training at all. Our dogs feel a connection to us. We are part of their pack. On those days, our dogs train us. They teach us about the importance of ear scratches and belly rubs, cold nose nuzzles and bringing a smile to our faces.
So as I close this one out and put another blog post on the books, I want to leave you with a little thought on promises. The most important promises we make in life are to ourselves. I will do my best to keep my commitment to write this blog on a consistent basis. There are times I will falter, there are times I will fail in my efforts, but I will forgive myself for my imperfections. As I finish writing this today, my furry girl is lying next to me on the couch with her head propped on a pillow. Later, we will work a little together and play a lot together. I promised her some belly rubs and ear scratches later too.
Wishing you fulfilled and fulfilling promises,