Human Lessons from Puppy Training

The Power of THINK

Developing a relationship with my new puppy Dash caused me to think of human relationships in an entirely new way. 

Puppy training is providing me a course in observing non-verbal communication, positive rewards for desired behavior, and a detachment of emotion when problems arise among many other things.

When I brought Dash home as a 10 week old puppy I embarked on developing a relationship starting with a blank slate.  He knew nothing of his new home, how my household operated, where his food was, where to sleep and a plethora of things that would freak me out if I were in his situation.  He was calm, serene and gentle.

He can't read my mind – and why I expected previous partners to read mine is both embarrassing and stunning to me.  No wonder that idea was never effective at increasing relationship value. 

So I had to THINK.  How was I to going to integrate him into my lifestyle, starting with crate training.  I wanted a full nights sleep and no accidents waiting for me in the morning.  It had seldom pre-planned a method of communication ahead of time. My method was always to blurt out what I wanted using words, not carefully chosen ones.

I was off to a fairly good start by setting up his crate in the living room with a dog pillow.  I put him in and he walked out.  I waited until he was asleep, picked him up and put him in.  He walked out.  This I repeated a few times.  It wasn’t working. 

This is the first time I had stopped to THINK, what am I missing?  It never occurred to me to ask this question with any significant others in my life.  It was always, what are they missing, not me. 

Maybe his crate wasn't cozy enough.  I covered his crate with a sheet, just halfway, so that it was dark in the back inside but so he could see out the front-sides.  That was helpful.  He dozed off for a good amount of time.  Success!  I'm good, crate training is done.  Not so.  As soon as I closed the gate to his crate for the night he cried and barked.  I'll wait him out but not too long.  I'll give him 6 minutes.  6 minutes past with no letting up.  For me to get some sleep he was free to roam the house all night and yes, I woke up to accidents. 

This went on the first 3 nights, including me setting out puppy pads and sheets in hopes he would use them.  I knew that was pie in the sky, he had no idea what I wanted him to use them for.  This reminds me of an Alanon concept, "pigeons do as pigeons do".  When sitting on a park bench under a tree with pigeons in it, don't be offended if struck with pigeon poo. 

My previous self would have been angry and frustrated, but today  it made no sense, it wasn't logical.  Any negative emotion on my part would be unreasonable and I knew it.  So I didn't.

A trip to the vet was helpful for me to discover that I needed a bag of treats to help me communicate with Dash what I wanted.  I had neglected to use this very important technique.  Without it he wasn't getting a complete picture.  As I gave him treats from outside the crate, he learned to go in the crate to get them.  A light bulb went on for me that repeating the words, "nighty night" he could learn to associate going in his crate with a verbal command as well. 

Gee, could positive reinforcement for wanted behavior from Dash translate into my human relationships?  If I made any attempts at that before, they were haphazard without much thought.  I'm not sure it's that simple with adults as I hear it is with kids.

I have experienced 3 solid nights of sleep with Dash snoozing in his closed door crate.  He is too young to hold of peeing and pooping for a full night but at least it is contained in his very large crate and not in my living room .  

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