The Puppiness Project – Make Mischief Before Hard Work

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.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Golden Retriever fetches her toy

This is the test I always pass–I always get my toy.

The sun was shining. The morning was warm. Leaves all around us were crunchy and colorful. I was outside with my favorite dog and my favorite guy.

So why couldn’t I stop crying?

Today’s Going to Be Rotten

I could hardly wait to show Mike how well Honey was doing in her preparation for the Canine Good Citizen test.

We’ve been practicing in really challenging settings. Honey proved she could sit and stay calmly as bicycles, scooters, strollers, and other dogs walk by a dozen at a time. She remained sitting when children ran toward her from the sidewalk to pat her on the head. She even learned to ignore the crossing guard with treats in his pocket.

Well, almost.

But today, none of that training was in evidence.

Aliens had come in the night and taken my dog. They replaced her with one who was unfocused, undisciplined, and obsessed with squirrels.

I swear, I even checked her dog license to make sure she was actually my dog.

Even with treats (liverwurst, for the love of God, liverwurst!) I couldn’t keep her attention for more than a few seconds.

And her citizenship exam was scheduled for a little more than an hour later. And if you fail your Canine Good Citizen test, doesn’t that automatically make you a cat?

I’ll Never Make History

If it’s true that, as the historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, I’m destined to die unknown.

I’m, unfortunately, one of the best-behaved women ever.

Besides following all the rules of society, I make some up for myself:

  • Never eat a meal without a fruit or vegetable
  • As a bicyclist, I have an even greater responsibility to communicate clearly to cars so they acknowledge my legal rights on the road
  • After, and only after, you finish your work can you have a little fun

Yeah, I know they’re ridiculous. And so does Honey.

Mischief First, Test Second

Connecting with my Golden Retriever.

See, I wasn’t really taken by aliens. I’m right here.

If Honey’s Good Citizen test was part of a group, we would have scrubbed for the day and scheduled another session later. Why force something on a bad training day?

But Honey’s test was the only one scheduled. And good girls don’t put people out at the last minute after they’ve been kind enough to  arrange a command performance.

So we headed up to the arboretum a half hour before test time. I figured my best chance of reconnecting with Honey was if we got to sniff all the smells in the area and play a few games before the test.

We sniffed. We played fetch. We practiced.

We never got to the point of our practice sessions earlier in the week. But Honey got a little of her focus back and I recovered some of my sense of humor.

Honey was great at some things. She has a near-perfect stay. She comes every time I call her. She will drop on a dime when I ask her to sit or lie down. Loud noises or someone running by didn’t faze her a bit. She’s happy to be groomed or handled.

The things I expected to be tough, were. She wanted to rush forward to greet everyone. We had to practice walking through the crowd twice because she just knew one of those other charming people needed some Golden lovies.

But our evaluator was very kind and encouraging the bond between us more than lock-step obedience.

So we passed. Honey is officially a Canine Good Citizen.

And now we know what areas we need to continue working on.

I think the play time in the field was what Honey really wanted. And, although she was less focused on me than usual, she came through in the clutch. I guess our bond is strong enough that even on an off training day, we’re not totally disconnected from each other.

A Little Mischief is Not a Disaster

Honey’s response to the nice day was perfectly reasonable. Who’d want to work on such a lovely day? And, in the end, starting off distracted and fun-loving didn’t hurt a thing.

I need to learn from Honey and mix it up a little. It’s not bad to have fun first and work later. Who made up these crazy rules anyway?

The Footnote to the Story 

This morning Honey and I went for our walk. It’s as sunny and beautiful as it was yesterday. But today, Honey was right by my side.

I’d tell her to “go sniff” and she’d move ahead of me to check out her p-mail but the leash never became taut. When someone came by us on the sidewalk, I told her “with me” and she snapped to my left side instantly. I took her to the Ithaca Falls for some fetch and zoomies and she never got farther than 20 feet from me without darting back to check in.

So glad the aliens brought my dog back.

Do you always work first and play later? Do your dogs try to convince you to mix it up a bit? Or do you know it’s ok to make mischief first and work later?

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  1. Whew!! Good news. I thought from your facebook post that she had failed. :-(

    I think I should really try Delilah for her GC test. We had some training work this past weekend that was so amazing. I think I’m doing her a disservice by not putting her through it.

    Great job Pamela and great job Honey!!

  2. Wow that was close. in the end your training was ingrained in her and her performed by rote. Good job. Congratulations Honey.

  3. oops. Typo – should be “and she performed by rote.”

  4. Woof! Woof! Golden CONGRATS but expect days being taken over by aliens … just being a happy dog. Happy MM. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  5. One of the bad effects of the Industrial Revolution is that people had to work every day instead of enjoying a beautiful day in the landscape. People used to be more like dogs who know how to carpe diem. Oh, and congratulations to you both.

  6. Congratulations!! I knew you would pass. Honey is just too wonderful and you both have worked so very hard. I am so glad it was all worthwhile and you have something pretty great to show for it.

    I don’t know if I will try to take the CGN test again with Shiva or not. She did remarkably well for a dog I never expected to be able to enter that kind of environment, let alone get 10 out of 12. The title means nothing to me with so much success but because she is a rescue – and a wild one at that – I’d kind of like her to have it for that reason alone. But I know many lovely dogs who haven’t been able to pass for one reason or another so I won’t feel too bad if we never get there.

    Go Team Honey!

  7. Yay!!! Congratulations Pamela and Honey!
    I think I need to take a lesson from you and do this too. A little fun before work is a good thing. I am really happy for you guys!

  8. I know the alien dog thing too. There are days that Torrey is all about herself, and not listening to me. I do think a good dose of play is the best way to get focused on work. Especially for me.

  9. Awesome result, congratulations to you both:) I think play is the best way to nurture focus and to bond. And to calm owner nerves before a big event:) Honey is only human after all and not a robot which would perform perfectly every time and be so boring;)

  10. I remember Sam was a real turd the day we passed ours. Suddenly, right when the test started, he decided to be good. I think he picked up on my nervousness and was acting up himself.


  11. I’m so glad the aliens relaxed their hold on Honey ’til she got thru the CGC test! They sure had a hold on Sage when she took it and I haven’t gotten around to following up with a re-test.

  12. WOO! Congratulations, Honey CGC! Good work, both of you ^^

  13. Yay! Congrats for Honey!

  14. Congrats!!! I soooo misunderstood your FB post. Sorry!

    Many an obedience participant will tell you the same thing happens to their dog the day of a trial. It’s their way of messing with our minds!

  15. I knew you’d pass! :) Congratulations!

    I try to work first and play later, but I don’t hold fast to that rule. As Lilac got older, I started to realize that life is too short to waste it all on the things you feel you should do and miss out on the things you want to do. When Kuster came to join us, it struck me that he was going to be a puppy for a very short period of time. I made up my mind not to miss it, and if that means I miss some blog posts sometimes or TV shows, that’s okay. Living in the present sometimes requires us to abandon the rules, cast caution to the wind and have fun.

  16. Yay Honey! I knew you could do it! Congratulations 😀

    Maybe I should make my mom very worried before I take my test too – she will be even happier if I pass after all that…

  17. CONGRATULATIONS! You both needed a break before needing to fully concentrate – and you did it! Way to go :).

  18. Great job! I know SOME Dogs who could never pass CGC, so Honey really stepped up for this one.

    We have a hard time getting around to any sort of work–even though the work I want to do with Fozzie is all fun stuff like spins and bows and dancing to music! I’m afraid Fozzie’s lack of focus is only matched by his mom’s .

  19. Congratulations to you and Honey! And glad it was just a temporary case of the Aliens, rather than a full out Zombie takeover!!

  20. Rooo those aliens sure know when to abduct a doggie, happens to me every time its home time after a good walk in the park! *waggy tail*

  21. Congratulations on passing the test!

    It sounds to me as though you handled the situation well.