The Puppiness Project – Never Give Up

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, and Chérie, our visiting Foster Pup.

Clicker Training is Fun

Golden Retriever and Doggy Ride Bicycle Cart

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Honey gets very excited when the clicker comes out.

I could pretend she has an amazing love of learning. But I think it has more to do with the chicken liver in my treat pouch.

Here’s what a typical training session looks like.

Suppose I want Honey to use a new piece of agility equipment. I stand quietly and wait for her to make any movement toward the object.

What Honey does:

  • sits
  • wonders if I saw her nice sit so she raises her butt off the ground and sits again, with more force
  • lies down
  • touches my hand with her nose
  • spins in a circle

Finally she figures out I’m not looking for one of her usual behaviors so she must try something new. It’s about now that she notices the object and makes a motion toward it that I can click and treat. And we’re off and running.

Honey never walks off in frustration. She is persistent and she keeps trying new things.

The Curse of Smartness

Not all of us have learned the rewards of persistence the way Honey has.

Hound Mix and Golden Retriever

Let me show you how it’s done, Honey.

And, if some things come easy, doing other things that are really tough can be a rude awakening. It’s much easier to get an A on an English paper or score highly on grad school entrance exams than it is to get a book published or even to blog every day.

That’s why it’s better to be tenacious than to be smart.

Chicken Soup for the Soul has inspired many people. It won’t knock Fyodor Dostoevsky off the pedestal of world’s greatest writers. But it has spawned a legacy large enough to have its own zip code.

Did you know its authors, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanson, received 134 rejections before finally finding a publisher?

Now that’s persistence.

Character is a Muscle

We all know that if we want our bodies to more, we need to work harder. Running builds leg muscles that support more running. Lifting weights increases our ability to lift more weight.

If we want to strengthen character traits, we also need to build them up over time. We gain courage by facing our fears. We react with compassion when we practice compassion. And we become more persistent when we follow a course without quitting.

When I look back over my life, I see many times when I should have persevered longer. One of my goals is to build my tenacity muscles—to practice being faithful in small things so I can build the strength to pursue bigger things without giving up.

The Rewards of Persistence


Honey the golden retriever gets a treat in the bike cart

So did I hear something about going to get some ice cream?

In January of this year I became serious about making Honey comfortable riding in our Doggy Ride bicycle cart. Back then, we could barely convince Honey to stick her head in the thing for a treat.

We couldn’t do it on our own. We found a trainer to help us meet our goal. But we’ve worked steadily for the past eight months.

And now Honey can jump in the cart (with the wheels attached and hooked to the bicycle), sit calmly while we move the bike, turn around, lie down, and jump out the back. Our task this week is to practice in other places besides the backyard. And, if all goes well, we hope to take a short and happy ride soon.

We didn’t give up. And Honey didn’t either.

I think I see a bright future of rides in the Magical Mischief Mobile. Or at least a stop for ice cream.

Who has more persistence in your family? You or your dog? What keeps you from giving up?
Welcome to Monday Mischief – The pet blog hop that wraps up the weekend! This Blog Hop is brought to you by Alfie’s Blog, Snoopy’s Dog Blog, My Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.

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  1. Way to go Pamela and Honey!! There was never a doubt in my mind that Honey would get in that bike cart. :-) Persistance pays off, just be the dog. :-)

    I’ve really lost motivation for a number of things, but then I wonder if my dreams and visions have evolved over time, so it’s not so much of a ‘giving up’ as ‘a change of plans?’

    In my family I would have to say Delilah has the persistance, sometimes I just tend to give up, but not her. I think her motto is ‘by hook or by crook.’ Because if she can’t get it one way, she tries another.

    • If you can bottle a way to tell me when I’m “changing plans” and when I’m “giving up,” I’d buy it. :)

      BTW, glad to hear you had no doubts. Shortly after we began, I asked our trainer, Russ, if he thought our goals for Honey were realistic. He said he thought she’d probably adapt to life on a sailboat but he wasn’t sure about the bike cart.

  2. I’ve been hanging on every word of the bike-trailers story. We would love to take Silas out in one–in life “before dog” (and before we moved to this blazing inferno of a traffic-congested city) my husband and I were pretty dedicated cyclists. I’ve been afraid to spend the money for the trailer, though, because I figure statistics are not on our side for Silas to 1) not be afraid of it and 2) behave himself well enough in it to not tip it over.

    As for clicker training, I think I’ve been too inconsistent with it. We’ve always done positive training, but the clicker comes and goes depending on what he’s learning and how many training books I’ve been reading that week. The result is that Silas will offer the same three or four behaviors over and over and over, without ever doing anything new. He doesn’t “get” the fact that we can shape new behaviors with the clicker.

    • Nice to hear someone else gets the bike trailer thing. :)

      I bought it when our last dog, Shadow, was diagnosed with bone cancer. We wanted an option for her to go places with us even if she wasn’t up to a long walk. But before I spent the money, I decided that even if Shadow hated it (she tolerated it), I’d still have a sturdy vehicle for personal errands. I’ve used it for grocery shopping, going to plant sales, work errands, and bringing our Christmas tree home. So it definitely wasn’t wasted money.

      But you should know, we’ve spent over 8 months getting Honey this far. :)

  3. Congratulations to both you and Honey! That is such a wonderful accomplishment and you’ve both (all) worked very hard to earn it.

    Anyone who knows me knows tenacity is my middle name. Sometimes to a fault. (One also has to know when to move on and take a different approach – I’m still learning that one.) But Bella is obviously my dog because she is even more persistent than I am (when she wants something).

    Clicker training has been a godsend with her but I’ll leave you with a funny. Before we started clicker training with Bella, we had to train her to accept the clicker. You guessed it – she was afraid of the clicker. :]

    • Doesn’t surprise me a bit that Bella would hate the clicker. I have a button clicker which is a little quieter. But I still started out with it in my pocket.

      In a weird coincidence, I just misplaced it and tried to use a regular clicker a few minutes ago and frightened Cherie half out of her wits. Poor girl.

      BTW, if you want to sell me some of your hardheadedness, er, I mean tenacity, I’m buying. :)

      • LOL – poor Cherie. Tell her Bella sends her love and commiseration. :\

        I do have a button clicker as well – the regular ones are just too loud for Bella.

        Every boss I have ever had would be happy to sell you some of my stubborn, er, right tenacity. 😉

  4. Yay! Congrats to you and Honey – it’s awesome that your persistence is paying off!

    Sometimes I worry that I give up too easily, but I’m trying to work on my stick-to-it-iveness. :)

  5. Congratulations!! I know you’ve been working so hard to make this kind of progress. Kudos to you for having the perseverance to continue working towards your goal and now you’re at the precipice of happy bike rides with Honey. I know that must feel great.

  6. that cart is so cute! I love how honey sounds when you do training. :)

  7. I’m sure once she figures out that there is ice cream involved she will be begging to go for a ride! :) Cali used to run thru her repertoire of tricks when the clicker came out, sometimes it would take us a few minutes to actually get her to pay attention – she just did everything she thought might get her that treat! It’s so fun when they are such enthusiastic learners. So happy to see Honey enjoying the cart and her training!

    • I wish we could tell Honey the dog park is waiting for her if she’d only get in the cart. :)

      As for the training style, it sounds like Cali and Honey are twin daughters of different mothers.

  8. How great to see Honey learning to trust and I know you will have a lot of fun and ice cream.

    I have a friend who has published many articles and stories. When he gets a rejected manuscript, he marks off the rejecter and sends it off to another publisher. Some of his works have hundreds of rejections, but to him it’s all part of his plan. I don’t have that much persistence, but it works for him.

    He once told me how many publishers had rejected the original MASH and how much money the author has made from the book, movie, TV and residuals.

  9. I’m so happy for you and Honey! Just wait until you two are cruising the streets together. This is such great progress. I know you were let down and disappointed at first when she wouldn’t comply, now just look at her.

    I think it’s hard not to give up, I do with the dogs all the time. And the dogs, I think it depends on the reward how persistent they are. :)

    Great work Pamela!!

  10. OH MY WOOF SHE’S IN THE CART! Way to go you guys!! I’m so excited!! (OK, now I have to go back and read the post. I saw the picture, got really excited to Congratulate you, then realized I had no idea what you wrote about. You could go on to say that was Photoshopped for all I know. I’ll be back in a minute. Here’s a little elevator music while you wait ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫).

    I so admire the canine spirit when it comes to persistance. They just don’t give in, do they? If Kolchak suspects there might be a treat involved, he’ll do pretty much anything to make that treat a reality. It’s definitely a trait I could work on.

    • I’d love to have video too. But I’m so invested in the outcome that I don’t want to jinx it by messing with a camera. :)

      As for Kolchak–is it persistence? Or hunger? :)

  11. And not only is she in the cart but it’s hooked to the bike!! WOW – you are doing wonderfully – does Chérie’s modeling the safety of the bike cart help at all?

    • Cherie and Honey are definitely teaching each other. I think Honey is modeling calm behavior on the street and peeing after waking up from naps.

      Cherie is modeling all the agility equipment. It really seems to motivate Honey when she sees Cherie doing stuff and getting treats.

      The first time Cherie jumped in the cart with Honey, Honey went flying. Now she even takes that in stride! :)

  12. The mental image of Honey sitting down again, harder, just to make sure you noticed is fantastic! Elka has a repertoir of things she’ll offer if we’re (well, if I’M) trying to shape something new with the clicker. Because “Look” was one for awhile, it’s funny how dramatic she’ll be. She’ll whip her head around to stare at me when the clicker doesn’t happen, and then do it again, like “Look at me, I’m looking at it. Seriously. This is Elka looking. Come on!”

  13. That’s so cool that Honey is getting used to the bike cart. Pretty soon you guys will be out on more adventures! I think persistence is definitely one of the traits you need to have as a puppy raiser. It took me 3 puppies over a 5 year period before my first guide dog graduated. I have to admit I was a little down, but I kept persisting and eventually reached my goal. I’ve spoken to other puppy raisers who have trained 10+ puppies before their first one graduated!

  14. Oh good heaven! Morgan has more persistence than any other creature I know! She is a master at wearing people down. The Greyhounds are wired so much differently that it can be uncanny. I think my own persistence is related a lot to how bad I want something!

  15. I do so enjoy reading your blog, its great to read about how both Honey and Cherie are growing and learning! Keep up the great work!

  16. Congratulation and well done. Onwards and upwards from ow on. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  17. Glad to see that you found your inspiration again. Aren’t dogs wonderful sources of it? I think it is great that Honey keeps trying until she figures out what you want. Not only is she showing tenacity, but I also think it shows the power of positive dog training. It is easy to keep trying when you won’t get punished for making a mistake.

    Getting a novel published is hard – but if you believe in yourself, you just keep on submitting and trying. Right now I’m having a hard time figuring out what my next writing project should be, so I went and wrote a short story instead. I figure it will keep the creative juices flowing, while I try to come up with my next idea.

  18. Excellent! Honey’s in the cart!