The Puppiness Project – You’re Gonna Stink; Do It Anyway

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.

Learning Dog Tricks

Golden Retriever standing on porch

What do you mean I stink at standing on my hind legs? What do I look like I’m doing now?

Honey will never dance the merengue.

She’s smart enough. She’s certainly cute enough. But she’s not good at balancing on her hind legs.

And yet, one of her favorite tricks is “circus” where she jumps up on her hind legs for a treat. She often rests her paw on my arm to stay standing. Or she’ll make more than one attempt. She’s just not very good at it. But she has fun anyway.

Honey stinks at balancing. But she keeps trying.

Learning Human Tricks

I am the world’s worst dog trainer.

My timing is always off. I continually drop treats. My own legs get tangled in the leash. I have such mangled body language that Honey can’t  understand what I’m trying to tell her.

I swore I would never teach Honey tricks.

I had no need for her to perform. She’s cute enough. Besides, I’m much more interested in having a dog that just participates in my life with me.

But over the past few months working with Honey and a trainer, I’ve loved seeing her flourish. She’s an eager student. She appears to be proud of herself when she figures something out. And she’s becoming more confident.

I love spending time with her. So I’ve gotten some training books out and started working on some tricks.

She already knew “high five” and “circus.” Next I taught her to give me her paw—it took about 3 tries. Now we’re working on shaping a roll over.

Yep, I still stink. The book by Dr. Ian Dunbar tells me to move a treat by her nose and over her shoulder to coax her into rolling over. Yeah, right. It isn’t pretty. But she is starting to shift onto her side in the first step toward rolling over.

Just Have Fun

threadbare crazy quilt

It’s called a crazy quilt because I’m crazy for keeping something that’s falling apart.

My paternal grandmother made a quilt every year. They were very odd.

The patterns and colors clashed. The stitches were crooked and all different sizes.

My Grammy Douglas taught my Grammy Fegley (maternal grandmother) how to quilt. The student excelled over the teacher. Grammy Fegley’s quilts were perfect. The colors and patterns coordinated perfectly. And every stitch was exactly the same size and as straight as can be.

But I don’t have any quilts by my Grammy Fegley. It wasn’t really in her nature to give. I have several from my Grammy Douglas, including one that falls apart a little more every time I pick it up.

quilt stitching

The stitches don’t even come together. But I still love it.

In decades of making quilts, my Grammy Douglas never made a perfect one. I can only think she did it so long because she found it satisfying.

Whenever I wonder if I should do something I enjoy that I’m not very good at, like painting watercolors, bicycling, or dog training, I think of my grandmother. And I remember that doing something well isn’t always the point.

Sometimes it’s ok to just have fun.

Let’s Be Bad Together

No, I’m not talking about getting into all kinds of mischief with Honey, although that’s a good idea too.

If Honey can have fun doing a trick she stinks at, I can have fun stinking at teaching her a new one. What’s the worst that will happen? Honey will get a lot of treats and I get to spend time with my dog.

Maybe stinking isn’t so bad after all.

Only 5 Days Left

To support Honey and me (and Chérie) in the March for the Animals. One lucky person will be chosen at random to win an Amazon gift card. So don’t wait. Make your gift today.

Welcome to Monday Mischief – The pet blog hop that wraps up the weekend! This Blog Hop is brought to you by Alfie’s BlogSnoopy’s Dog BlogMy Brown Newfies and Luna, A Dog’s Life and you can read more about how to link up here.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop


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  1. It is part of the nature of the dog, to just not give up and to embrace life and all that it throws at us. Life would be so much simpler if we took our lessons from our dogs. :-)

  2. Quilts are supposed to keep people warm and happy. The ones that are perfect don’t keep people any warmer than the ones that the quilter enjoyed making.

  3. This sounds like me in Nose Work class. Sometimes I run around really fast, right past the scent, over and over again. My peoples says I will probably never be able to compete, because I get so distracted, but she brings me to class when she can afford to anyway – just because I am having fun.

  4. This is just about how I feel about training the dogs with the cart, sometimes I think I am just trying to hard!

  5. Roll Over is a hard trick to teach anyway but I like your attitude. Who cares if Honey perfects the roll over or if the two of you just have a blast trying to get there? When I was attempting to train Sadie to roll over, we sucked at it. Badly. But she made me laugh so much that, even though we didn’t achieve our initial objective, we still had a lot of fun in the process!

  6. I really like what you say…though I find it difficult to put it into practice. If I’m not really good at something, I get too judgmental of myself and it becomes a chore to keep at it. It would be very liberating to adopt your perspective though!

  7. My Gram was a quilter, too and yesterday was her birthday. Her quilts were never perfect either, and she always said that if we really loved her, we’d use the quilts until they were worn out – not put them in a closet just to look at them. It sounds like you’d be making your grandma very happy.

  8. Grandma Fegley reminds me of me! LOL. I think I may be a little more colour coordinated though 😉

  9. What a great message and reminder today! I am a hopeless perfectionist and I admit that I have been guilty of letting this hold me back from things.

  10. Don’t feel bad if Honey won’t roll over. Two professional trainers tried four or five separate time and neither one could make BJ roll over. Even with HIGH value treats he would wiggle his way around and not roll over.

    Honey is so cute and looks cuddly that’s the greatest.

  11. The fact that you keep working at training and have fun even though it doesn’t come easily is great!
    Maggie and Duke are both nervous and not very food motivated, so the instructor nearby pretty much wrote us off after we tried agility the other weekend. Yeah, Maggie & I pretty much sucked, but we realized that she’s not someone we want to train with. Glad we found that out before signing up for a class!

  12. Luring hasn’t helped me teach Elka to roll over either! Really, I’d settle for a “flop on her side”.

  13. It’s fun doing things together – that’s the important part.

  14. What a great message Pamela (by the way, I haven’t mastered the art of teaching the roll either). I love reading about your grandmothers too. It’s a good reminder that if you enjoy doing something but don’t excel at it that it’s okay to keep doing it.

    I have often stopped doing something because my sister is just better at it than I am. She’s the creative one in our family. Everything she touches turns into art – sewing, baking, painting, scrapbooking, photography – you name it and she’s done it and done it well. In fact, she’s sold many of her things in craft shows. Me on the other hand? I tend to be impatient, inattentive and less aiming of perfection. When my sister excels at something I usually give it up because I know it won’t compare. But, you just reminded me that if I get joy from it, it doesn’t matter how good I am at it. I should do it anyway.

  15. It is so not true that you are the world’s worst dog trainer. You’ve said that before but I just can’t believe it. You have lived with and trained three rescue dogs, none of whom were particularly easy, and you now have all this terrific fostering experience. Maybe you haven’t succeeded in teaching a dog to roll over, but you have given the dogs in your life something far more important: trust and a very positive relationship in a loving home. This makes you a far better dog trainer than many who charge others for the same service. In my opinion, anyway.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t get your point. I like to be good at everything I try pretty much right away. If I’m not, I give up and move on to something else. It’s why I have never made a single craft since elementary school and why I hate to cook. I need to learn how to relax and enjoy things, even if I am terrible. It’s not about being impressive, it’s about learning and having fun. Right?

  16. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband:
    She smells great to me, folks!