Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever, and Chérie, our visiting Foster Pup.
Going at the Dog’s Pace
Empires have fallen in less time than I’ve spent making Honey comfortable with our Doggy Ride bicycle cart.
All along the way I kept getting the same advice: you can’t go too slow. It has become my mantra both in working with Honey and now, with our foster pup, Chérie.
And it has paid off. Honey is more confident than I’ve ever seen her. I have no worries that she can face anything we put in front of her. And Chérie is becoming a whole new dog. Every week she meets more challenges and becomes bolder.
So if going slow and easy with our dogs is kind and effective, why is it so hard to do the same with ourselves?
Just Push Yourself
While Honey has learned to conquer wobble boards and bicycle carts, I’ve learned to sail.
When a strong gust of wind hurls my boat around like a toy, I start to understand how Chérie feels when a stranger comes into the house. And I know why Honey was so tentative getting into a bicycle cart that makes her feel out of control.
My husband has done more sailing than I have. He’s gone out alone several times which has improved his skills and increased his confidence. He’s anxious for me to come up to the same level. I think he wants me to push a little harder through my fears.
I get it. I know I need to experience higher winds, spend more time on the tiller, and stretch myself in new ways. But must I do all those things at the same time? After all, we wouldn’t expect Honey to adjust to several changes in one training session. Why should I?
Am I More Scared Than Anyone Else?
Yesterday we went out on a low wind day. Dark clouds rolled over and the wind and waves picked up.
It was far from the highest winds we had ever seen. But I noticed that most of the other sailboats on the water were starting to take their sails down and motor back home. Obviously I wasn’t the only person on the water uncomfortable with the amount of wind.
We decided to take down some sail and keep going. It meant I had to stand on the cockpit, holding onto the mast with one hand while fighting to bring the sail down with the other, all while the boat is rocking and rolling in the waves. It’s not easy.
But we did it. And we continued sailing in conditions that most of the other day sailors on the lake were not willing to tackle.
If Sailing Was Like Dog Training
If I could learn to sail the way Honey learned to ride in her cart, we’d take one step at a time.
I’d take the helm in 4 mile per hour winds, then 6 mile per hour winds, then 8 mile per hour winds and so on. I’d start on days with steady winds and work my way up to days with variable winds.
But weather can’t be controlled the same way our dog training is. We set Honey and Chérie up for success. The wind doesn’t do the same for me.
So I need to figure out how to learn at a pace that is comfortable to me without the wind cooperating. It might mean doing what’s most challenging for me (managing the tiller) for short times each sail, instead of being at the helm the entire day or not at all. Whatever I do, I know the learning curve has to be very slow, just like it is for Honey and Chérie.
Making Learning Fun
Honey and Chérie learn more when we can make training a game. I’m the same way.
My husband likes to drill. Yuck. I’m not willing to do a maneuver 20 times in a row to learn it. I’d rather build my learning into real life—picking things up as I go along.
Yes, it’s much slower. But it’s a lot more fun.
And if it’s ok for dogs to learn skills slowly, maybe it’s ok for sailors, bloggers, dog trainers, agility handlers, writers, entrepreneurs and others to learn skills slowly too. With plenty of time for mischief in between.
Welcome to Monday Mischief – The pet blog hop that wraps up the weekend! This Blog Hop is brought to you by Alfie’s Blog, Snoopy’s Dog Blog, My Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.