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.
Regular readers may recall my vow to regularly progress in my training with Honey so that I experienced tremendous humiliation if we didn’t reach our goals. The first was to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. While I’ve been working with her on all the areas we’ll need to pass, I haven’t actually scheduled a test so I don’t have that looming in front of me.
The second goal was to take Honey with me to BlogPaws 2011. And that’s a done deal. The tickets are bought and the hotel room is reserved.
So if you read a report that a Golden Retriever attending BlogPaws went rogue and broke into hotel rooms looking for socks and underwear to carry around in her mouth, you’ll know I didn’t do a very good job and that we should have done more training.
But I have kept making slow and steady progress by working with her every day just as I promised you I would.
I figured out that the easiest way for me to practice was by incorporating training into our walks. My biggest priority has been loose-leash walking on a plain collar. I’m also working on having her wait for me to signal “ok” when we cross a street, walking quietly by other dogs without soliciting play, and walking quietly by people without soliciting play (I told you she was a love slut; those are pretty hard skills).
Incorporating training into an every day activity like a walk, makes it feel a lot less like work. And it ensures that our training will happen every day and for a limited period with plenty of breaks to keep her (and me) from getting tired.
While I hope I don’t need special training to make sure I’m socially acceptable at BlogPaws (you always pick your nose with your pinky extended, right?), I am signed up for weeklong, live aboard sailing lessons on Lake Ontario soon. If I learn everything I’m supposed to, I should be able to pass several written and sailing tests to earn certifications.
While I appreciate that I’ve learned a lot in the few months I’ve been studying and sailing, I have so much more to learn. I don’t respond intuitively to a command to turn a boat leeward or windward and hate anything that involves math like figuring out boat displacement or wind vectors. If I want to pass my tests, I’ve gotta get busy.
But I think the Honey method of learning will save the day. I carry a sailing book around in my backpack so I can read a little more every time I have a line to wait in. I walk around paying attention to where the wind is coming from so I can figure out what point of sail I’d be on if I were a boat. And when I see a picture of a boat, I go over the names of the parts in my mind.
I hope that I’ll learn more easily by spending a little bit of time throughout the day practicing–like Honey does on her walks. Eventually it will sink in and I’ll know everything I need.
And if I flunk all my sailing tests? At least I know how to walk quietly around the block and watch both ways before crossing the street. That’s something, isn’t it?