The Puppiness Project – Don’t Push Too Fast

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

Golden Retriever in bicycle cart

I keep hearing rumors of ice cream. We’d better pick up the pace a bit. I’m hungry.

Empires have fallen in less time than I’ve spent making Honey comfortable with our Doggy Ride bicycle cart.

In January of this year, I got serious about working with her. In April, I started getting help from a professional trainer. In September, we are now taking Honey for slow, short rides.

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?

woman at sailboat tiller

Sailing is a relaxing sport on a low wind day. See how calm the water is?

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 BlogSnoopy’s Dog BlogMy Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop

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  1. Sounds like you’re doing great! You sure do have a special mom to do all these wonderful things with you. And I love how you look in your cart – everyone must admire you! PS~ I agree, get that ice cream! 😉

  2. Oh my goodness. That is SUCH an important lesson… though it sure can be hard to learn. I know that when I tried to push Lucas to go faster that he was ready for, it totally backfired and caused us to have to backtrack. And you’re so right: It’s a great lesson for everyone, not just dog trainers!

  3. You may not be able to control your “training” in the same way, but at least you can think to the future and understand the benefits of your training. If dogs could understand long term consequences, it would make training so much easier! “I’m teaching you a reliable recall so that we can go to the dog park!” or “If you would learn not to jump on people, we could meet so many more of them!”

    • You’ve read my mind, Jessica. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told Honey that if she’d just get in the bike cart, I’d take her to the dog park.

      She just looked at me blankly. :)

  4. You have my great admiration. Sailing looks like a lot of fun, but I am a total landlubber and I got seasick reading the blog. Maybe I’ll learn a different skill using your advice…like rock climbing. Oh, wait. I don’t like heights either. Maybe I have all the skills I can ever handle.

    • I can’t believe you didn’t suggest learning poodle mushing. No great heights and if you find yourself in water then something has gone horribly wrong. :)

  5. Oh Pamela, I don’t how much slower I can go at working out the kinks of blogging. LOL

    I think everyone learns in a different fashion, you know the way you learn and should work at they way it works best for you! You’ll get their on your sailing, when you get there. Just keep being the dog….;-)

  6. Woof! Woof! YES the most important thing is to have FUN in learning. It takes time but it is worth it. Happy MM Blog Hop. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  7. Mike Webster says:

    Sounds like your husband needs to drill the concept of Not Drilling.

    With a properly nuanced strategy that exploits the ways your slow learner perceives the world, you can achieve excellent outcomes like, “OK, people, we’re going to TACK this boat SIX TIMES in SIXTY SECONDS or LESS or, WAIT a minute, are those COOKIES I SEE IN THAT BASKET?”

  8. Drilling is really not my thing either! Everybody learns at different rates and in different ways, dogs and humans alike!

  9. I’m definitely not a driller! Maybe it’s a guy thing. My dad was always drilling us, too, but it’s not my style. To this day, I still shut down at just the thought of drills. I say go at your own pace and enjoy it!

  10. No! I want to know how to do things and I want to know how to do them NOW, preferably without studying them or practising them in any way. **sigh** I would never expect that of Koly & Fe, but of myself? Nothing less is tolerable. I guess I should work on that. Good idea.

  11. All good things come in time, that’s what I always have to remind myself.

  12. Hahaha, Jodi’s comment reminds me a lot of myself. If I am going to do something new I expect to do it right away, none of this baby step business. Sometimes I can but it often leads to me losing patience with my own lack of skill, becomming obsessed with getting it right and drilling myself until I can do it, or giving up. Neither are very much fun.

  13. It’s pawsome that you are the kind of peoples who doesn’t push their dogs too far, and sets them up to succeed. It would be nice if (nice) peoples like you would learn to treat yourselves as good as you treat your dogs. My peoples is always pushing herself to much, and then she gets burnt out. And then she’s no fun to anyone, especially not us dogs.