First I have to say thank you for all of the "pawsitive" support that we've received for last weeks blog entry. It is a tough thing to throw yourself out there, but on the flip side, very awesome to know that you are not alone in whatever battle you're winning/losing/fighting or begrudgingly ignoring!
This last week I had the opportunity to attend two fundamental clinics with my boys that focused completely on the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the game of basketball. Fantastic instructors, beautiful facilities. Great family weekends other than the fact that it may take weeks to get that super-funk teen-age foot smell out of my car! Eeeewwww......
Like everything in life, basketball appears super straightforward and easy. Put a ball through a hoop and then stop the other team from doing the same. On the surface, simple. I played Division I basketball at Syracuse University as a full-scholarship student-athlete and I can personally verify that it took over 40 hours a week for 4 years of breaking down that simple concept into a zillion small parts. So, simple is never really that simple.
One of the quotes from our latest basketball gurus was, "Practice makes permanent, it does NOT make perfect. You are what you continually do." As I watched one of my kid's "less-than-good" habits continually rear it's ugly head during a fundamental drill, it really hit home- this is how he practices every time I see him and certainly when I don't. He has done this a million times when he's messing around and now it's become part of his game. Let the "un-training" begin.
So, when "Rufus-the-wrecker" comes into the clinic and sticks his nose in another client's crotch, dislocates his mom's right shoulder lunging into his harness and refuses to walk when asked, I wonder what he does he walks in the park or when he interacts with his family at home. Is he allowed to cross in-front, behind or in-between mom's legs? Does he sit when meeting strangers? Does he turn into a 100-pound missile when he spots a squirrel at 75 yards? What are the expectations when people come to the house? Does he sit and greet or is he literally bouncing from the "windows to the wall?"
Practice makes permanent.
So, all that said, I've got a 4-step dog-drills and a better visits game plan for YOU! (And I get that we are all busy and have a zillion things going on. But, pets are like kids and if ya got 'em, you're legally required to take care of 'em. And if you're gonna go through all THAT work, why not enjoy 'em too? So carve out a few minutes a day or even a couple days a week to help your dog be a dependable player on your team. It is the most fun "chore" you will have to do!)
Step 1: Unless medically necessary, no harnesses on dogs over 10#. Use a collar, gentle leader, no-pull, halti, etc. A sled dog wears a harness to PULL a sled. A regular dog wears a harness to PULL his person. Also throw away any flexi-leads while walking. That is a spring-loaded rope burn and doesn't give you any control over your pooch's movement. You can't request Fido to sit as a stranger walks by if you have to reel him in from 30 feet untangling him from 2 trees and a fence post.
Step 2: Keep your pup on either your RIGHT side or your LEFT side at all times. I know, fancy obedience dogs and trainers will say your dog should heel on both sides. However, my 4-step plan is not aimed at that particular demographic! Pick something that is easy on both you and your dog and stick to it.
Step 4: Allow your dog to be a moron. Make sure your dog has time to play and be off-leash. All dogs (even the tiny ones) get the zoomies and need time to burn off a little steam. Taking a dog that's been inside all day out for a walk and expecting perfection is like expecting my 12 year-old to look like Michael Jordan when he's in 6th grade- ain't gonna happen.
Remember, practice makes permanent!
The happier and more respectful your pet-human relationship is, the more you (& your pooch) will gain from it!
As a final note, the above in no way applies to cats. They rule the world and we are simply the beings with opposable thumbs that can run a can-opener and open the food bag. Sorry- you're on your own on that one!