The Puppiness Project – Find the Joy in Boring Routines

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.

Sit, Stay, Down — It’s all Good.

Golden Retriever and cute white puppy sleeping

Thanks, Honey. You made the Buster "chore" much easier and lots of fun.

I am not a good dog trainer. I’m unimaginative and don’t think well on my feet.

So you’re never going to find videos of Honey and me doing dance routines like Shiva and Kristine (aren’t they so cute?). And if you say “paw” to Honey, she’ll look at you blankly. She does, however, like to “high-five.”

And yet I bring the clicker and treats out to keep our basic skills strong. Although up, down, sit, stay, go to bed etc. are easy behaviors for Honey, when I get the clicker and treats out, she acts like she’s expecting the most fun ever.

Even routine things are fun to Honey. She finds the joy in figuring out what I want and she doesn’t get bored or resentful no matter what.

Curing an attitude problem.

Many years ago, Mike and I had a weekend routine that made me insane.

Mike’s mom was bipolar and found routine life management tasks hard to manage—shopping, cleaning, paying bills. So every Saturday morning we’d cross the bridge from Philly to South Jersey to help her out with a few things.

I started out really resenting the time. It broke up the entire day. We couldn’t plan other activities for the time. And although Mike and his mom loved each other very much and were very close, they’d argue over every little thing.

It made me nuts.

Then one day it hit me. What would I have been doing with that time if we didn’t have to visit Mike’s mom? Well, my first choice was always to spend it with Mike. And guess what? I was spending time with Mike.

Washing the dishes and listening to the two of them argue about money wasn’t a great joy. But the trip gave us great views of Philly as we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge. And every time we’d stop on the way home at one of those amazing New Jersey diners that are the envy of the world.

Once I let go of my resentment, the chore became fun.

It’s not a walk. It’s a treat.

Most of my neighbors disappear in the winter. They limit their dogs to quick visits to the yard and stay bundled up inside until the first warm day.

I hate the cold. I struggle to go outside if I don’t have to.

But a walk is always a treat to Honey. It’s never routine. Just like a training session is never routine. There are smells to smell. And people to greet (although fewer than in the summer).

It’s hard not to get swept up into her enthusiasm.

I won’t get the benefit of all those awesome smells. But I can build some fun into our routine too by making a hot cup of tea on our return and enjoying it with my tired and satisfied dog.

Join us for a hot drink.

Today Honey and I are featured on Coffee with a Canine. It was a gracious invitation since I’ve never drunk coffee in my life, with a canine or otherwise. Thanks for hosting us, Marshal.

Maybe someday we’ll be invited to a blog with a more fitting beverage. Perhaps Margaritas with a Mutt? Dewar’s with a Dog? Galliano with a Golden?

But in the meantime, stop by and say hello.

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  1. Kolchak and I thrive on routine. When we don’t follow it, we fall wretchedly behind. Our walks are what Kol & Fe look forward too all day long. Walking in the snow may not be *my* idea of delightful, but man! Do they live it. I guess it is all a matter of perspective!

    (PS-you’re welcome on Kol’s Notes to share a mutt & a marg anytime!)

  2. It is amazing how changing our attitudes about something can…well, change our attitude about something. What we hate to do can become what we like to do just by the way we approach it.

  3. Galliano with a Golden, I like the sound of that. But in the meantime, I’ll have to check out your interview!

    My father used to tell me I had two choices: I could be grumpy or I could be happy. It drove me nuts as a kid, especially as a teenager, but in a way he was right. Even when doing something I really don’t enjoy, there is always a positive. Sometimes it’s just harder to see than others.

    Thanks for the video link! I am determined to do better this year if the contest is offered again.

    • Kristine-I really wish someone had given me advice like that when I was a kid! I had to figure it out all by myself. . .and it took me a while :) your father is a smart man!

  4. I like your way of looking at things through a different pair of glasses… it does make all the difference!

  5. Ha ha! I drank hot chocolate when I did my interview at Coffee With A Canine! I bet your interview is great!

    I agree with you about making adventure out of the mundane routines of life. I remember our first Greyhound, Treat, demanding to go for a walk every evening. She’d snort and stamp her feet if I took too long. And there were a few times when the weather was just too severe to go out and that made her mad to no end. But you know, the funny thing is, I can’t remember a single time when I got up and took that walk with her that I was sorry about it later. The regrets I have are the times when I didn’t go out with her to see the world.

  6. I think this is a great approach. I always try to remember that although I can’t always control what happens to me, I can control my reaction to it. Even if it’s an obligation or a routine I have to do, I can try to find a way to make it fun or to enjoy it somehow, even if it requires a little thinking to find the silver lining. :)

  7. Daily walks are a part of my routine with Cali, sideways rain and wind or shine :) she keeps me moving and that I am thankful for! My reward is usually a coffee!

  8. No question that attitude makes a world of difference. It just comes more easily to some people than others. I’m way too negative about everything, and it really holds me back in life.

    Does Mike know how lucky he is? :)

  9. Painting Life’s Sweet Moments? Wow! I bet you’re glad you’re called Honey, Hunny BUnny.

    Pamela – you’ve NEVER had coffee in your life? I didn’t think such a person existed! Learn something new every day. I don’t get people who don;t walk their dogs when the weather turns bad either, self-righteous person that I am. Even when it rains here, the parks are almost bare.

  10. My internet connection is playing up tonight, I’m sitting here waiting for the video of Jane Horrocks to show so I can see if she’s who I think she is:) Yes, she’s also Bubbles from Absolutely Fabulous!

    I think I drank a Chai Latte for my interview. I’ve only drunk one cup of coffee in my life because I was too much of a wimp to say I wanted black tea, not black coffee. It was AWFUL!!

    Love Honey’s long name, it suits her too:)

    Beryl isn’t a Golden Retriever and does get bored easily when training. She just gives me a stink eye and walks off, lol. So it’s very short and sweet for her. I’m still trying to think of something to train Frankie for your Challenge:( Can I count something I’ve been working on with both of them since late December? It’s not the same thing for them both, it’s impulse control for Frankie and a trust thing for Beryl.

  11. Hi Pamela :) Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I wanted to return the favor and this post totally caught my interest! I’m in the middle of reading “The Happiness Project” trying to be happier and healthier in my life and it never crossed my mind to incorporate Jada (my pup) into the concept! After all, dogs are known to increase happiness in humans so why not return the favor and make Jada wag that little stubby tail even more!! I will definitely be stopping by your blog more often! Thanks so much for this post and opening my eyes!!

  12. You will never regret the time spent helping a parent. You are so wise to also realize that you are sharing time with Mike and that you can make something pleasurable out of the chore.
    I’ll go check out Coffee with a Canine. When Kelly and I were there, we had Diet Coke with a Canine.

  13. I like cocktails with a canine, or bloody Mary with a bloodhound (and friends)! (By the way, I might have two mixed drinks a year, in case anyone thinks I’m a sot.) I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 41 – because I quit Diet Coke and it seemed healthier. :(

    You are a saint for (eventually) cheerfully helping the husband and his mom. A great lesson!

  14. It’s really amazing the shift that takes place when you change your mind from “I have to do this” to “I choose to do this.” And I’m thinking I could join you for shots witha Shar-pei!