Day 150: chill out, love -or- how to train your puppy

30 May

I love the word YES.
But, I have become the Queen of No.

We saw some of our favorite people this week.  One, was my college roommate, Laura, who conveniently lives right off I-95 in Wilmington, Delaware.  We are so lucky to see her every spring and fall on our trek between north and south.

This time, however, I felt like we arrived with the traveling circus in tow.  Our dogs.  One broke a lawn chair. The other ate all the sticks in her yard.

I suppose if you are a dog person you can easily nod your head in a “been there, done that” sort of fashion.  Laura’s family owns a cat, but she seemed to be very understanding of our canine mayhem, just the same.

For the record, we paid her for the broken chair and left with our tails tucked between our legs.  Good thing Laura has two children and a really big heart — and has known me for over twenty years!

Our next I-95 stop-over was with our favorite vet, and cousin, Brian.

This was Brady’s first time meeting Brian and he was, of course, on his best puppy behavior, which he proudly displayed by immediately sniffing out rat poison in the yard and gulping it down.

Did I mention Brian is our favorite vet?  He took control of the situation immediately with a little peroxide solution. Brady made it through just fine.

And, then, this old dog learned a few new tricks.

Brian explained the subtle nuances of dog training.
And, it’s all about LOVE.

Puppies don’t respond to “no” commands. They respond only to positive ones.  (Don’t we all?!)

Brian instructed us to ignore Brady when he cries, makes a fuss, turns into a puppy nightmare — because all he wants is love and attention — even if he has to throw a form of tantrum to get it.  (Sounds like all well-meaning two-year-olds to me.)

Which made me realize I have been doing everything ALL WRONG. 
I have been the mothership of “NO” — “STOP” — “DON’T DO THAT!” — in hopes of showing Brady the ropes, and laying down the rules.

Turns out, I have been talking HUMAN and Brady only understands DOG.  But, there is a language that connects the two, and it’s called…. yep, you guessed it, LOVE.

Some tips from Brian included this: find Brady when he is doing exactly what we want him to do — like, laying down, nice and quiet and relaxed — and reward him with our attention.  Approach him with love and praise and say, “Chill Out. Good Dog.” in a happy, loving way.

“No” goes unheard because it is meaningless.
Love is actually training.

So, we have a new rule around here.
No more NO’s.

So, far, it’s working well. For one, I find myself saying much more positive words. I am also wiring myself to be on the lookout for positive behavior.  I can’t help but think that I must sound like a drugged out slacker, talking like The Dude from The Big Lebowski all day long with, “Chill out, good chill out!”

The good news?
So far, we have mastered a “SIT” on command without food involved! (Not me, Brady.)

And, I have ordered the book Brian suggested, Good Dog, Great Owner by Brian Kilcommons, in hopes of becoming a better purveyor of puppy love.

Of course, all of this doesn’t take the puppy out of the pup.
He just ate Justin’s ear phones for dinner.

But, I am looking the other way — or at least looking for other positive behavior to reinforce.  Like… “Throw up the wiring you just ate! Good doggy.”

I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it sometime soon.

Until then, I am reminded about the power of love.
No matter the question, or behavior, or the relationship, be it between humans or dogs …the answer is always love.

Woof.
Now, excuse me while I go chill out. 

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