The Puppiness Project – Fix Your Dog Just Like You Fix Your Car

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.

Saturday I was trying to figure out why Honey behaved differently on her walks depending on how she was leashed. And I was lamenting ever learning how to walk with a loose leash every time.

But on today’s walk, I managed to “fix” Honey the exact same way I “fix” my car.

Golden Retriever on Something Wagging This Way Comes

Why do you keep trying to fix me? I'm perfect just the way I am.

I’ve learned that if your car stops working, the best way to fix it is by trying to reproduce the problem for your mechanic. It will work perfectly the instant he opens the hood.

Same thing with copiers. Your printing comes out backwards while the machine coughs blood and lets out devilish shrieks? Just bring a colleague over to demonstrate and it will be working like a charm.

By talking about Honey’s pulling, I made sure she’d stop doing it.

And sure enough, we just came back from a perfect walk.

Honey alternated sniffing with checking back in by my side. She never once pulled when crossing the street. She kept making eye contact as we wandered the neighborhood.

Honey was a perfect dog.

Of course, I’m kidding when I say that Honey’s pulling was “fixed” because I wrote about it. She’s not a car or a photocopier. She’s a dog. A dog who has good days and bad days. Can pay attention better some days than others. Makes progress and back slides–just like I do.

Our walk tomorrow might not go quite as well as today’s. But we’re definitely making progress. And I’ll be much happier the more I can remember that.


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  1. Mike Webster says:

    I think she actually fixed herself when she swallowed that adjustable wrench after listening to Car Talk on NPR. Who knew she’d be such a good little mechanic? And she’ll work for kibble.

  2. Haha! Daisy fixed herself today too. She had two perfect recalls under high distraction! I won’t be counting on that happening everyday with my hound.

    • Impressive, Daisy! Just as long as you don’t take that excellent recall for granted, I know she’ll be able to keep it up.


  3. Honey, you are perfect, but sometimes us hu-mans think we should focus. And that’s a BIG expectation! Don’t worry, you’ll get it. Mom is working on my focus too. Maybe we’ll become the bestest focused dogs ever!

    • Honey’s just happy I don’t try to focus her by twisting her nose around like a camera lens.

      And I bet you’re right, Sage. You and Honey will be the bestest ever.

  4. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me!


  5. Isn’t it funny how that always seems to happen! No matter what you tell people your dog will do, when there’s an audience, it never happens! It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to show bad behavior or the greatest trick in the world! lol

  6. LOL. That is too funny. Sometimes I wonder if they can read our minds…

    I am so glad Honey was able to surprise you. Now at least you know it is possible, even if she doesn’t walk so perfectly in the future. I try not to take my dog’s behaviour for granted so that I don’t get frustrated when things don’t go well in the future. But it is still very important to celebrate such great progress! Congratulations!

  7. Aw, it’s like Honey was trying to prove you wrong!

  8. @houndstooth4 and @Pup Fan: Right before I take her to Blog Paws in August, I’m going to write a long post about how she always jumps up on people and doesn’t know how to settle down quietly. That should ensure she behaves perfectly, right?

    Of course, a bit more training probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  9. Lol, sounds like you’ve found the secret to perfect behaviour! Oh, if only it were that simple. I must try it with Frankie and Beryl. Good luck on your next walk with Honey:)

    You’re going to Blog Paws, and Honey too … *sigh* all the greatest things happen overseas. I live in the wrong country!

  10. It’s true! It’s true! I think they just like to lull us into a false sense of security then WHAM!!! Tricked ya! Sod!

    Honey gets to go to Blogpaws too? Wow! That’s all I can say. Are you guys flying out there? So exciting :)

  11. So very true. You try to share the problem and just then it is no longer a problem!
    Just Ramblin’