The Puppiness Project – Encourage Bad Behavior

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.

Obey the Scent

Golden Retriever

My favorite position: nose down, tail up.

When we first tried K9 Nose Work with Honey, our instructor told us to do everything we could to rev up her excitement levels. Nose work class was a “no obedience zone.” We were told not to correct Honey, make her sit, stay, or do anything else that sent a signal that nose work was about anything but having fun.

While it’s important to have good manners in most settings, nose work class was all about increasing the drive to sniff.

One of the hardest things for Honey to learn in nose work is that the item she’s supposed to find might be located over her head. Honey has never counter surfed. And getting her to raise her head to search for smells off the ground took her a while to master.

You see, Honey’s such a good girl she doesn’t even want to look like she’s counter surfing.

Good Behavior Kills Fun

I frequently see a bumper sticker around town: “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.” The quote is by Pulitzer prize-winning social historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

It’s not often that academics see their words plastered on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But this phrase has resonance with a lot of women. And it has resonance with me.

I am insanely driven to be obedient.

Right now, at the top of the WordPress dashboard while I’m typing is the message, “WordPress 3.3.2 is available! Please update now.” And I feel incredibly guilty that I haven’t yet done just that.

When I was a little girl, I remember my dad saying to me, “A lady always carries a purse.” That simple phrase has seen me taking a purse camping, strapping it over my shoulders before hopping on a bike, and cramming one into my backpack full of books just to be sure I was in compliance with paternal wisdom.

Of course, keeping track of a purse while camping or riding a bike doesn’t exactly add to the fun. And the really crazy thing? The only things I have to put in a purse are a tube of lipstick, a change purse, and my keys—all things that easily fit into a jacket pocket.

Breaking the Law (Soundtrack here)

It’s time to start breaking some rules. And it’s all Honey’s fault.

Updating WordPress is going to have to wait. I’d want to fit in some training with her teeter board and bicycle cart before I go to work.

And who can manage a purse along with a leash, clicker, and treat bag? Not me. The purse stays home.

But Honey is driving me to even greater lawless behavior.

Golden Retriever and Santa on the Ithaca Commons

If I was good all the time, I would not have seen Santa and his Elves rappelling down Center Ithaca. Dogs aren't allowed on the Commons.

Our dog trainer suggested we take Honey to the local playground to expose her to new moving objects and to build her confidence. Unfortunately, the local playground is flanked with signs that say “No Dogs Please.”

You know what? I don’t really care. Well, I do. I know they want the playground to be a safe place for kids and free of dog waste where children are playing. I get it.

But I’ll obey the spirit of the rule without the letter. We go to the playground early in the morning while kids are still sleeping in. And we make sure Honey has taken care of all her hygiene tasks before we get there.

And this summer, Honey and I will be lawlessly enjoying the lakeshore.

Let me explain. I live in a tiny progressive town that brags about how 41% of its residents walk to work. The government talks a lot about ensuring the town is safe and easy for bicyclists and pedestrians—but only if you don’t have a dog.

You see, public transportation and local cabs are off limits to dogs. The local carshare program lists as a benefit that every car in their fleet is dog free. And the nearest lake front access, a city park, allows no dogs despite being so overrun by geese that people find it unpleasant to picnic among the droppings.

I’m tired of being an obedient girl who goes along with stupidity. And I bet Honey would agree—if she could talk. And if she wasn’t a dog who didn’t think about these things.

Being Bad, Building Confidence*

(*I had a more alliterative word but after Doggy Style Pick-Up Lines I thought I’d better tone it back.)

Honey and I are such good girls that I don’t think the Sheriff’s department has to hire more staff to keep up with our crime spree. I also don’t think we’ll be inspiring gangs of women with dogs to roam the streets breaking laws with impunity. I don’t even think we’ll make history.

But maybe showing just a little bad behavior is a good start.

Are you a rule follower who needs to show a little bad behavior? Or do you refuse to follow rules that enforce stupidity? And does your dog inspire you to follow or break rules?

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  1. We tend to follow the rules too, so I understand where you’re coming from. I think a little civil disobedience will be good for us. Really, as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, who’s going to care? Besides, it sounds like your town needs a little nudge toward being more pet friendly … if they see you and Honey setting a good example maybe they’ll reconsider their less-than-pet-friendly policies!

  2. I am a super hard-core rule follower. My husband makes fun of me for it all the time. I can’t even jay-walk without feeling guilty. Last year when we were walking with the dog on the harbourfront he insisted on taking the short-cut through the ferry terminal, even though no dogs are allowed inside. I refused to join him and took the long way around by myself.

    However, I break off-leash rules all the time in our forest. I figure in the dead of winter at six am, it really doesn’t matter. No one else is going to be joining us on the path. I also have taken Shiva on playgrounds, in tennis courts, and on beaches that are dog-free zones. But only when I know no one else will show up to yell at me. Also, all city parks are only “open” from 5 am to 10 pm, but I have totally been there with my dog before and after those times. What a rebel I am! 😉

  3. Aren’t leash laws made to be broken??? I always break hiking leash laws…it seems a bit ridiculous to be required to have your dog leashed when you’re 5 miles into the wilderness, just sayin’. But breaking leash laws is about balancing common sense with respect so I leash em back up when a dog-less group approaches on our hikes.

  4. A lady always carries a purse? New to me. My fanny pack probably doesn’t count.
    I can remember a time when I could take my well behaved dog any place especially on the campus where I worked, but people started abusing the privilege and NO DOGS ALLOWED signs appeared everywhere. Perhaps if well behaved dogs showed that they were no longer embarrassed by irresponsible owners the signs could come down.

  5. Oh, I am such a compulsive rule-follower. I read labels before washing anything and am terrified the government will cart me off to jail if I make the slightest mistake on our tax return. Heck, when I get money from an ATM, I turn the heads up and facing the same way– a habit from my days as bank teller, and banks don’t even have that rule anymore! (If they did, the money would come out right in the first place!) And I am FIERCE when it comes to academic rules of plagiarism and proper citation!

    Yet I have no “house rules.” Yesterday, bad mother that I am, I forgot to ask my 12-year-old if she had homework and let her have friends over in the afternoon, resulting in an 8:30 p.m. meltdown over math that was “too hard.” If I’d remembered to ask, and abided by the “homework first” rule, there would have been fewer tears in my house last night.

    WordPress says I’ve spelled abided wrong (is there no such word), but I do believe in poetic license, and I’m leavin’ it (though I did upper-case the P in WordPress when the red underline appeared. What a nerd).

  6. I follow rules and laws but not necessarily societal norms and precepts. In fact, I like to push boundaries and challenge the norms (from where else does progress come?)

    But when it comes to dog laws, I have to admit, I go so far above and beyond the law, I (channeling Joey Tribbiani here) “can’t even see the law. The law is a dot to” me. (Sorry.)

    Anyway, my reasoning for this is because, given Bella’s issues, her size, color and sometimes behavior, I need to do everything in my power to protect her. If she snarks at the wrong dog, she could be injured. If she frightens the wrong person, she could be killed. If she were ever to get picked up by animal control, they would likely deem her aggressive and un-adoptable and, again, she could be killed.

    I didn’t always follow the dog laws with my Beau. I knew he would never hurt anyone. With Bella I’m beginning to understand it’s not always about me and my dog but also about what other people are dealing with in their dogs. And yeah, I feel guilty now for all the times I’ve yelled across the way “It’s okay, he’s friendly!” :)

  7. Awesome!

    I’m a stringent traffic law rule follower (I signal my turns at 3 in the morning, with no other cars in sight) but when it comes to other rules, I’m a little more open to bending. In my town, the law is that off my property, Elka MUST be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. At the park, I put her on a 20 foot leash. While still leashed, we are still “breaking the law”, and it is a ticketable offense ($250, I think).

  8. I am in favor of encouraging bad behavior… I think that’s what we were all doing on your genius doggy style pick up lines post! :)

    Although, I admit I’m also a pretty stringent rule follower. I need to loosen up.

  9. For the most part, I’m a rule follower, but I am guilty of looking for ways to bend the rules so they mold to what I need in certain circumstances. And there are other times when I take the risk of not following certain rules if I think they’re unfair or ridiculous! lol

  10. OMD, I am SUCH a rule-follower it’s ridiculous. Sometimes when my hubby tries to break the rules (like letting the dog off-leash in spots where we’re not supposed to) it completely stresses me out!
    I see people breaking the leash-laws all the time in the parks in our city, but no one seems to care. (Except maybe me! lol)

  11. I’m more of a rule follower, but do challenge the rules that enforce stupidity. It does drive me nuts to see people not following certain rules like not picking up after their pups.

    I’m glad to see Honey is still doing her K9 Nosework. I haven’t been in a class for a while, but I work with Stetson from time to time and he’s really good at finding Birch hides. Are you working with odor?

    I hope all is well!

  12. My hubby is the rule follower and I am the rule bender (surprise, surprise!).

    Cali won’t look up either . .she will chase a squirrel across the yard and then she will never look up to see it in the tree! I hope you and Honey have lots of fun breaking (I mean bending!) the rules!!!

  13. I’m like you Pamela, always following the rules and I’m a nervous wreck about breaking them. My husband is just the opposite. lol The dogs are a happy medium for me. As you might imagine Brut changed all the rules for me and has expected me to follow. hehe I grew up with hard core rules about everything, especially about dogs. It’s been an internal battle, but it has been worth slowly breaking all of those old laws. :)

    Go for it Pamela! Life is way too short!!

  14. Amen Sister!! I have that very slogan, “Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History” hanging in my bathroom. It is the motto I wish to live by. 😉

    I’m a good girl like you and Honey, I like to follow the rules but sometimes, the rules are just…..dumb.

    You go girl, when you and Honey get busted for that ‘crime spree’ I’ll add a chip in widget to my blog to help Mike raise money for bail. :-)

  15. I’m totally calling the fuzz ;0) In my experience, these “no dogs” rules only apply to those with poor mannered dogs. Technically, the beach, dock and lake itself at our summer house is technically “dog free” but not only do my dogs and I frequent every inch joyfully, I have even had the park rangers there for “enforcement” ask if they can play fetch with Kol or show folks how if you pull Felix out of the water his little legs quite “swimming” as if his life depended on it.

    I grew up in a household of very few rules. Two to be exact (and I word these exactly as my mother did, I apologize if I offend):
    1. If you can’t be good, be careful.
    2. Don’t be a dick.

    As such, I tend to follow the rules of common sense rather than the rules of the law.