The Puppiness Project – Enjoy Some Healthy Competition

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.

Sibling Rivalry is Good

Golden Retriever getting treats in bike cart

I’d better stay put. I think this interloper wants to get in my bike cart.

Honey has taken a big leap forward in her training lately.

It may be the result of eight months of hard work. Or perhaps her increased confidence has quickened the learning.

But I think it has something to do with a smart alecky foster dog with one blue eye and a sense of mischief.

Honey is eager to please . And she’s very smart. But I’ve learned something new about my pup—she’s competitive.

Honey just got tired of seeing Chérie walking on teeter boards and hopping into bicycle carts for treats. She could do that. And gosh darn it, she did.

Honey has also picked up speed. She races to jump in the cart, before that “other dog” can beat her to it.

Yep, competition is good.

Keeping the Peace

I’m a Communitarian. I try to make choices that benefit the communities I live in and not just myself.

That means that on game night, I might not play my best if it means others will have less fun. It makes my husband insane. He thinks I’m not competitive enough. Especially when we’re playing on the same team.

But I can’t help it. It’s more important to me that everyone have a great time than that I win.

Golden Retriever and hound mix on the porch

She’s on my side of the couch. Tell her to move over.

Dog Blog Wars

But I don’t always roll over and let myself get peed on. I do have a competitive streak. And, as long as I know it won’t harm my community, I indulge it.

Here’s my nasty little secret.

When I’m tired and don’t know why I’m blogging—when I need a little push to get my energy up—I start comparing stats. I visit, check my Alexa ranking, and see if I’m gaining or losing on Technorati.

Oops, my Alexa ranking is slipping. Better step up my game.

But it’s more fun to compete against someone else than yourself. So I’ll choose a blogger I really admire who is doing a little better than me—they have more monthly visitors or they have more incoming links. And I’ll set my sites on passing that blogger.

I figure it doesn’t do any harm. The admittedly one-sided competition perks up my energy a little bit. It pushes me to do a little better.

But it also makes me appreciate all the great bloggers out there. Some write every day. Many write humor that makes me laugh out loud. Others provide wonderful resources and information that teach me more about dogs. There is no shortage of talent in blogville.

I get my little competitive burst. And I get to enjoy my community.

Pitting One Dog Against Another

Honey is not the only dog in the house who responds to a little competition.

During Friday’s training session, I noticed Russ having a good time with Honey while I was clicking and treating Chérie for remaining calm with a scary stranger nearby. He noticed a shift in Chérie’s behavior to barking to solicit treats instead of barking in alarm. So he decided to play with Honey to encourage Chérie to get in on the fun.

Did it work?

Well, the Chérie in the yard when Russ left was not the same dog who “greeted” him when he arrived.

The learning is definitely going both ways.

Now if only I could end the competition to dig up the most cat poop in the garden.

Are you competitive? Is your dog? Does it help or hinder?

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.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop

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  1. I’m extremely competitive in almost everything, except it seems in blogging. It may be that I don’t know enough about SEO’s and what all that Alexa mumbo jumbo says or the fact that I don’t really market my blog the way that most of you do. I really need to get my bum to some kind of classes that help with this. It’s very sad that after almost two full years of blogging, I still know little to nothing about it. :-(

  2. I’m very competitive when it comes to playing games. Letting other people win so that they have a good time is just not something I have in me!

    I too use my dog’s social learning/competitiveness to my advantage. At least Maggie’s. I often have Hurley demonstrate his newest trick in front of her (for many treats) and she’s 100 times more likely to learn it quickly. Sadie though does not show any inclination to learn from the others and so she’s a bit harder to train on new things. Girl would be happy giving every one of her treats to Maggie or Hurley if it made them and me happy. Gotta love her!

    • Sounds like your dogs represent a wide spectrum of competitive urges.

      I’m happy for a good competitive game if I know everyone else is. I’d be glad to take you on… :)

      I did show my ruthlessness once. My husband had an extra U-2 ticket when we were dating. If he won Trivial Pursuit I’d go with him. If I won, I didn’t have to. I got all 6 wedges before he even got one. I guess that tells you how much I hate U-2. :)

  3. I’m competitive, just watch me at rendezvous when it comes time to shoot archery, or my gun. The dogs are competitive for attention when we meet people. If someone tries to pet either dog, the other is right there in there face wanting attention too.

  4. Mine is a new blog, so I’m at the bottom of the heap and poised to pass the next person, if trying will get me anywhere. 😉 But yes, personally I’m quite competitive. I hope I know when not to be. My dogs aren’t competitive, but I have a duck who seems to be. *sigh* Life is backwards sometimes.

    • That competitive streak will probably be very helpful to you in your business. I could use a little more of it when it comes to supporting myself. The communitarian ethos isn’t usually a money-maker. :)

      BTW, you have me intrigued. I want to know what a competitive duck looks like. You got me thinking of Ferdinand in the movie Babe who wanted to replace the farm’s rooster.

  5. I try really hard *not* to compare Silas to other dogs, because he’s so much better at some things (adorableness. maintaining a baseline of excellent behavior at home. running.) and so much worse at others (walking on a leash. paying attention around distractions. meeting strangers.).

    I did really enjoy being the “best” in obedience class. Until the last day, when Silas needed to interact with the rest of the class, then acted like a space cadet. That’s what comparisons get you.

    • Yep, you’re definitely showing the dark side of comparisons. :)

      But you and Silas are doing well together and now you have the opportunity to compare where he is today with where he was before. Maybe compete against your past selves?

  6. That’s interesting! I am a very competitive person, I try not to be, so it always finds a way to sneak out:) Leroy is like me, he is competitive, but he doesn’t try to hide it!
    I try not to look at my stats very much, ever few months or so, sometimes it bums me out but I never thought about comparing stats with other bloggers, it would probably work for me and keep more motivated!

    • I ignore my stats for months at a time. It’s definitely not a good think to obsess over. But sometimes I just need that adrenaline hit that comes from a little competition. Give it a shot. :)

  7. I don’t worry about my blog ranking any more. After I was #1 on Technorati one day and the next day dropped into the 60’s I can’t take it seriously. And there was a list a few years ago where I kept getting passed up by blogs that had stopped posting. They wanted me to buy something to help my ranking.

    My dogs are super competitive. I rely a lot on peer pressure to maintain order.

    • You’ve definitely hit on the random stupidity of rankings. I am amused to see I’m tanking on one ranking while doing great on another. In the end, it only matters if you need it to help you make money.

      But I rely on silly games to keep me on my toes. Maybe after I’ve been blogging 7 years (!) I’ll be a bit more zen.

      Glad to hear your dogs’ competitiveness works for you. Is that why you like posting stories about poodle over-achievers? :)

  8. I used to say that I am the least competitive person in the world but that’s not true. If there is something I pride myself in, like spelling, than I can get pretty into showing off my skills and besting others. But I am not very competitive in sports or games other other things I never really expect to do well in anyway. Blogging is the last thing I am competitive about these days. I don’t even know what Alexa is! 😛 My husband is incredibly competitive so in a lot of ways I think my more relaxed attitude works well with him. I don’t care if he beats me at every activity/video game we play and he always gets to win!

    I am so glad Honey and Cherie are helping each other in this way! You must be so thrilled! It was luck you were able to foster Cherie at the right time.

  9. That’s great that each dog is helping the other. I bet this is one benefit of fostering that you probably never saw coming!

    I didn’t even know there was a place you could go and check out your blog’s rating. Do you have to be a member or you can just look yourself up?

  10. Koly & Fe share a healthy sense of competition (and an unnatural amount of jealousy that I try not to encourage). Felix is not even remotely treat motivated – unless Kolchak is getting a treat. Then he’ll do commands like a dickens to try to out-snack Koly. It’s adorable.

  11. Oh that first picture is just the cutest! Happy MM!

  12. Did I or did I not say that would happen with Cherie, Honey and the bike cart? At last! She’s done it. I’m giving you a big clap here, Honey :)

    I am actually VERY competitive, despite being not ambitious. That sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? In those dark days when I used to work for a living, I was never keen on titles (though I did enjoy getting fat pays). But I always wanted my team to do the best campaign and get picked for the pitch to client. I’m the same at capoeira. I don’t want the belt. I just want to play a better game. I don’t mind this schizo behaviour myself, but it drives The Other Half nuts.

  13. Yes! I am the competitive one in our family. Guess who else is competitive? If you could believe it Stetson shows his competitive attitude when it comes to eating. I noticed this the past few weeks while puppy sitting. I usually feed all my dogs at the same time and I recently noticed Stetson had been eating much slower. However, when I started puppy sitting he really picked up his eating. Seriously he eats about 1 cup of food in 10 seconds!

    I haven’t really thought too much about the friendly blog competition you mention, but it sounds like a great way to motivate yourself. I think I’ll start looking at stats a little more closely to try and challenge myself….by the way, I notice your blog is a PR4 and mine is a PR3…the game is afoot!

  14. I am definitely competitive but Cali is not, she will just go off and lay on the other side of the room :( It’s cute that Honey is not letting Cherie steal her glory!

  15. I didn’t realize that had created a fee account option. Whoo-hoo! I was totally bummed when they became a paid service. I’m so glad I followed your link. And, I guess that I’ve revealed that I’m a little competitive too, huh? =)

  16. Maxwell: Mommy’s very competitive… but us? Faraday is always picking on Allie. She thinks she’s top cat in the house and he’s always trying to oust her as mayor. MOL!

  17. Hmmm… I’m definitely competitive in some aspects of my life, but I’ve learned to rein it in a bit. Trivial Pursuit and other games used to bring out my crazy competitive side (think Monica from Friends), but now I try to remember that it’s just a game. (That doesn’t stop me from wanting to win, however! I won my fantasy football league last year and I’m still riding that high. LOL.) I’m actually less competitive at work and lean more towards collaboration (though it doesn’t hurt to engage in a little competition every now and then).

    Anyway… as for the pups (as I should stop rambling), it’s too early for me to tell, I think. Bella’s energy levels have definitely increased since Tavish came to live with us, and I think she’s upping her game, but I’m not totally sure yet…

  18. Never underestimate doggie competitiveness! Thunder has trained more than one dog to upland hunt simply by being out hunting with them.

  19. Bender and Barbie are very competitive. Barbie especially loves to run rings around other dogs at the dog park. Bender makes sure he beats all to his ball. They both try very hard if we are training together. I was practicing getting them jumping into the kayak I just bought last night, and I had to put Bender outside because he wasn’t letting Barbie get a turn. He probably would have been a bit more hesitant if it wasn’t for the competition. If Bender wasn’t there, I am not sure Barbie would have gotten into the kayak at all on the first night, I probably would have only gotten two paws in.