The Puppiness Project – Take Time to Relax

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.

Smiling Golden Retriever in the snow.

I'm happy to work as long as we get to take lots of fun breaks.

Bone Weary – the Puppy Version

I’ve never had a dog as smart as Honey. It’s a pleasure to train her. Just a couple of repetitions and she’s captured a new behavior.

But even the smartest dog can get a full brain and become bone weary of learning. That’s why dog trainers tell us to break our training sessions into no more than five minutes scattered throughout the day.

Here’s what it looks like with Honey:

  • We start out practicing targeting with the bike trailer.
  • After a few excellent repetitions, Honey just stops.
  • She looks up at me.
  • She lies down on the floor.

Yep, she’s done. The Retriever brain is full. It’s time to take a break.

Bone Weary – the Human Version

What is a typical week like for you? A full-time job? Raising a family? Caring for multiple animals? Volunteering? Writing a blog? Caring for elderly relatives? Home renovations? Running a business?

Whew, I’m getting tired just thinking about all the things we try to crowd into a week.

What does it look like when our brains get too full?

  • We lose our motivation to do our usual tasks.
  • We feel guilty and bash ourselves for not doing what we should.
  • We go get an awful snack and watch bad reruns on TV while feeling even more guilty.

Maybe we need to be as kind to ourselves as we are to our tired out pup who’s had too much time in training.

Bone Weary – the Cure

When Honey’s brain is tired, we stop. It’s time for zoomies in the yard, a game of tug, or a cuddle on the couch.

Of course, when our own brains are tired, we aren’t usually as kind to ourselves. But we must be. Or we’ll never last.

So if you’re feeling unmotivated and can’t get something done that you know you should (probably the most evil word in the English language), take a break.

And if you find yourself doing something different that’s real or mischievous, that enriches your body, your mind, or your relationships, congratulate yourself. You’ve just become as smart as a puppy.

[Thanks to Pup Fan for suggesting this topic for The Puppiness Project on the I Still Want More Puppies Facebook Page. If you liked it, go “like” I Still Want More Puppies.]

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  1. Excellent follow-up to that Facebook conversation. It’s funny how we can have so much patience with our pups and yet be so hard on ourselves.

    My body has a way of telling me it’s had enough thinking for a while: it gets sick. When I was in college, I could push through whatever ridiculous amount of work and pressure I had to in order to survive the semester but come winter break, I always ended up flat on my back, in bed, sick with the flu for a week.

    It doesn’t happen quite as regularly now but hopefully that’s because I’ve learned to see the signs and quit while I’m still ahead. It’s not a lesson I’ve learned to perform without fail yet but give me another 50 years and I might actually have it down cold. 😉

  2. This is such good advice. I know too well how accurate your description of the human version of being bone weary is. Of course, I am reading this post now thinking about how right you are and how I should take this advice, but easier said than done- it’s often very hard for us humans to let ourselves relax, isn’t it? Still, its good to be reminded how important it is to give ourselves a break when we need it.

  3. Mike Webster says:

    Another edition of The Husband’s Two Cents. . .

    Cent No. 1: The word “should” isn’t necessarily evil. Rather, the evil we inflict on ourselves is in the number and, often, the dubious quality of the direct objects we put after this particular predicate. But after we cut out the non-essentials, the not-very helpfuls and the downright-harmfuls, some things indeed remain to which the word “ought” rightfully applies.

    Cent No. 2: And my wife does not yet realize how short and simple her list of “oughts” really is.
    –Do the Husband’s Shopping.
    –Prepare the Husband’s Meals.
    –Clean the Husband’s House.
    –Darn the Husband’s Socks.
    –Learn to Darn, so she can Darn the Husband’s Socks.

    Oh, was that one cent too many? :)

    • Have you ever walked in darned socks? HA.
      Excellent post – one I needed after filling my home to utmost capacity and being sick, missing work last week :(. Time for a break – short but fun. Mmmmm…..

    • Dear Husband to Pamela,
      Are you by any chance related to The Cushion?

      I just need to replace the word “socks” with “buttons on shirts”. After more than 20 years of training, he’s finally able to throw away holey socks. It’s one of the great achievements of my married life.

  4. Great post and advice!

  5. Fantastic advice!

    It’s hard to give ourselves a break when we feel like we need one. There are always time constraints, deadlines looming, people to disappoint….the list goes on.

  6. This is such wonderful advice! This happened to me just recently and I just ran out of motivation. Taking a break certainly helped to get my focus back and to prioritize my tasks! It’s funny how quickly we become overwhelmed and the most important things get put on the back burner.

  7. Good point! Some of you humans want it all and you want it now. But it takes time.

  8. Great advice! When I teach yoga, I find it amazing that some people will rush out of the room and not stay for final relaxation (savasana) – IT’S THE BEST PART OF THE CLASS – but I guess they feel like they cannot give themselves that time to just REST, RELAX and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It’s taking those moments to breathe and relax (even for just 5 minutes!) that can really, really help :)

  9. Perfect! And well said. We should take a cue from our four-legged friends and stop to smell the roses sometimes.

  10. I have watched something I have never witnessed with my husband the past few weekends, doing nothing AND not fretting about it. (OK, he a few moments when we tried to slide through the garage) It was amazing!! So maybe, just maybe he’s starting to reach puppy IQ!! BOL!!

  11. Oh, I could hug you! It’s the stuff that’s been running rampant through my brain for the last two weeks. I feel like I just can’t catch up with anything! I’m trying to explore photography, but that takes up more time in a night than I’d like to admit. Then I realize after I’ve uploaded the day’s picture that I’m behind on reading blogs and commenting, and then I feel awful about it. I stay up late trying to get as many in as I can and then I like to do a little reading in bed before I go to sleep, and I either feel guilty because of the things I didn’t get done online or because I’ve shorted myself and don’t have enough time to do any reading. If only I didn’t have a day job! I feel almost a panic feeling that I can’t get caught up, but I decided this weekend that I was being kind to me. I actually left the house with Bunny and escaped the electronic world for most of the weekend. I read a few of my very favorite blogs over the weekend and then marked the rest as read. Of course, I’m on the verge of starting the ugly cycle all over again, but I feel a lot more relaxed than I did.

  12. Hey Honey, Jet here. Boy, your human is smart. Mom says her “to do” list runs long with a great deal of variety (she has 4 jobs and writes 2 blogs, a newsletter etc… ) and we’re raising a teenage girl… (JJ and I help her with that task).

    When she is spent, she tries to nap, read for pleasure, chat with a friend, give us lovies or knit.

  13. Oh good advice. I have pajama days. Just take one day every once in a great while and stay in my pj’s all day long. I don’t care if I even do chores. :) We usually mix up our dogs training so they don’t get bored or overwhelmed.

  14. That’s why dogs are so smart. They know to take a break when they need one. We can learn a lot from observing our dogs! I think I need a break right now.

  15. i so often try to take lessons from desmond on this very topic, but i always fail. thank you for posting this, though, it’s another great reminder to be as kind to ourselves as we are to our pets. desmond has his body, mind, and soul taken care of on a daily basis by me and my husband, but i’m often fairly awful to myself (and my husband’s only a little better because he gets the benefit of me taking care of him, too).

  16. My brain is definitely full lately… and tired… and right now, kind of throbbing. :(

    If only work would allow me to just take a break right now! I feel very behind on almost every other aspect of my life at the moment – I’m fortunate that I don’t really have to take work home very often, but now when I do go home I just can’t find the motivation to do all those other things on the to do list. It’s difficult not to feel guilty when that list sits unfinished, but I think Honey has the right idea here – sometimes, it’s okay to just relax. In fact, it’s necessary. :)

  17. Sounds like more than a few of us could use a vacation! Maybe we should start a pool where we could help each other get a break – at least from our blogs – by submitting well-written guest posts. And, during that week maybe we could all send our husbands to darning class! =)

  18. It sounds like we are all in very good company. Why do we do this to ourselves? Unfortunately, the things I’d most like to take a break from are not the things I am able to let slide. The feelings of overwhelmedness (see? I can’t even think properly these days) have just gotten worse over the last couple months. There is so much on my list that I am too tired and worn out to make time for the hobbies I enjoy. So I sleep. Which only seems to make me feel even more tired. 😛

    There’s gotta be a better way!

  19. Funny, I lay down on the floor when I am over worked – just like Honey. Maybe I have learned more from her Puppiness Project than I even realize ;0) I usually respond to being over-worked by convincing myself I just need to buckle down and then, to prove to myself I can, I take on more work. Kind of seems stupid now that I admit it. LOL. For example, tonight I decide I was going to try to clear up my 800 post Google Reader backlog AND leave a meaningful comment on at least one or two posts of all my favourite blogs. It’s 9:30 and I am less than a quarter done. I may have been over ambitious. I’m going to make like Honey and go lay on the floor for a while.

  20. I just read this post as a break from my homework. Currently I’m taking a course called Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Counselling. Self-care, I just learned, is critical to ethical practice. If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of your clients?

    With so much flying in my life right now, I have let reading and commenting on my favourite blogs slide. I do feel bad about it, but there is only so much my brain can handle. In fact, I’d go lie down on the floor right now, but they’d probably throw me out of the library.


  1. […] myself to shut off. I highly doubt anyone will die if I do. At least, not many people. Sometimes, as I learned from Pamela and Honey, relaxing is actually more productive than […]