Unexpected Benefits

So one of the things I didn’t think enough about, before I got a dog, was how it was going to change me. I kind of knew that in some ways, it would make me happier. I didn’t anticipate how truly neurotic it would make me. But one of the benefits I’m seeing is that it’s got me thinking further ahead. After the 433rd time of going to get the leash and not finding it where I want it, but where I wanted to get rid of it, the last time, I’ve started framing things differently. “Where am I going to want to have left this?” “Am I going to want to measure out the dog’s food for tomorrow while he’s standing there hungry, or will I wish I had taken care of it now?”

A friend told me that she learned the hardest things to know about leadership from training her dog. Dogs demand a consistency that’s pretty unparalleled, and they don’t specifically listen for what you say as much as observe what you do. I’m starting to find that to be true.

Last night, I came home and the dog had ripped open the cover on his bed and shredded some of the stuffing. I was disappointed, but mostly in myself. When I set him up to succeed, he usually does. This time, I’d taken away the toys he plays with when he’s bored, and I hadn’t left him with enough snacks and water to get him through the amount of time I was gone. My mom, who comes over Sunday nights, says that I make excuses for him. Technically, that’s true. But the truth is that I know he’s a puppy. I know he’s going to have more energy than he knows what to do with, and when I’m on my game, I provide him with constructive outlets for that energy.

Today, I did better. We walked more, before I left him for the stretch he’ll spend alone today. I made sure he had plenty to eat, things to do if he’s bored, and I’ll watch how long I make him hang out alone. I expect that I won’t come home to a mound of shredded padding from his bed. We’ve got some things to work on, but he’s a good pup, and it turns out I’m fairly trainable, too.

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