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.
Many people seek help from a dog trainer because their dog is out of control. Whether they choose to fill their pockets with cookies (bribery) or use a shock collar (punishment), they’re trying to control their dog’s behavior.
Granted, the pocket full of cookies is more pleasant for the dog than the shock collar. But it’s still trying to find a way to control your dog.
Sometimes being out of control is the best thing
Living with reactive dogs for many years has made me excellent at managing my environment on a walk. I scan the horizon for other dogs and anticipate the direction they’ll walk with their people. I know exactly what time people walk their dogs. And I know which fences are most likely to hide a demon hound with boundary issues.
Although Honey is friendly to all, I still walk with that sense of vigilance–that feeling that I must control the setting. (If you want to read an excellent post on getting past this tendency, read Kristine’s Drunken Master IV: Canine Fu at Rescued Insanity. I promise you’ll love it.)
And when I practice all that vigilance, I miss out on the walk. I might even be influencing our interactions with other dogs and people–kinda like a form of anti-control (this is different from auntie control which is often attempted by an uncle). And I’m certainly missing out on the relationship with Honey.
When “losing it” is a good thing
If you’ve been reading the Puppiness Project for a while, you won’t be surprised if I tell you I’m a bit of a control freak. If I can’t manage things properly from the beginning, I won’t do them at all. I’m more likely to do things professionally and competently than I am to do them with flair and a sense of fun.
It’s really boring. And stressful. Both at the same time.
My controlling tendencies are the biggest reason I wanted to learn to sail. I can think I control the weather. But pretty soon, the wind will bitch slap me around for my hubris.
And it’s why I love to live with dogs. I can try to control my dog. But my dog can also sit as we approach the steps after a walk to let me know she’s not ready to go in yet. I try to control her. She tries to control me.
Or we come together in our relationship to figure out what each of us needs.
My dog is out of control–and I love it
Discovering that dogs have their own motivations and desires was a big breakthrough for me. I love all of Honey’s quirks that show her as a unique dog and not just a creature I control:
- Honey barks when she’s ready for bed and wants us to join her. It’s well worth the ear-splitting sound that interrupts that email I’m writing.
- When visitors come to the door, Honey can hardly contain her excitement. When we come home, she quietly brings us a toy.
- Honey heads right for a puddle when walking after a rain. But she won’t swim on a bet.
My life is out of control and I’m trying to accept it
In the middle of writing this morning’s post for Hands on Home Buyer, I started getting database error messages. Now I can’t open the site at all and have no idea if I lost what I had written so far or not.
And it appears work demands may cause us to cancel our long-awaited trip to the Annapolis Sailing show and a visit to my sister and brother-in-law. (Sorry Mel, I’ll call you later about our plans.)
The universe is testing my willingness to be out of control. I only wish blog databases and work were as cute and fuzzy as puppies.
Update: Several folks reminded me I forgot to mention how much we raised for the Tompkins County SPCA March for the Animals. Team Something Wagging had a goal of $250 and we raised $695. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and support.