On Saturday, I saw the results of nearly three and a half years of practice. It was an almost every day practice. And admittedly, it was an imperfect practice.
Yet, I stuck to it.
Here’s the magic:
Nelson and I were taking our dogs, Marley and Rex, out hiking with us. We were headed for a five mile loop called Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. We were almost there when we passed the Cradle of Foresty and their giant sign proclaiming, “Free Admittance Today Only.”
I slowed the car and looked at Nelson. “Haven’t you been wanting to visit?” I asked. Indeed. And no entry fee was very tempting. We looked in the back seat at two very eager doggies. The ranger at the entrance assured us dogs were allowed as long as they were leashed.
We arrived just in time for a guided tour. As we wandered through replica buildings and learned the history of the Biltmore, foresty, and the school, the dogs wandered with us.
After the official tour was over, we continued down a nature trail. I looked at Nelson and said, “You know,three years ago we couldn’t have done this.”
See, when I first met Nelson, his dogs were…ummm…lacking manners that I expect all dogs to have. And although Nelson wasn’t bothered by the dogs’ lack of…ummm…manners, he agreed that for relational harmony, the dogs could probably learn a thing or two.
Over the course of the last three years, I made it my mission to train Rex and Marley (and at the time, Nelson’s foster dog Tyson) to be quality canine companions.
We worked on:
- Teaching the dogs to sit before eating. No more bum-rushing for food OR dog biscuits.
- Asking the dogs to wait before heading out the door. No more escaping wildly!
- Requesting the dogs wait before jumping out of the truck. More control is good plus it’s safer, especially when there are cars nearby.
- Not letting the dogs in the kitchen while we’re doing anything – cooking, cleaning, etc. This rule developed after an incident where my pizza was pulled off the stove top and eaten. And Nelson wasn’t the one who did it.
- Reinforcing the “no jumping on people” rule. This has not been successful in our house and I apologize to anyone, ever, who has visited our house. The excitement, the slobber. Oh dear.
- Exercise and leash walking. The Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan says, “Exercise, Discipline, Affection” in that order. The more exercise the dogs get, the more energy they dissipate and the calmer (and more trainable) they become.
- Exercise and off-leash behavior. Rex, the black lab, used to bolt and run crazy away when he was off-leash. We simply couldn’t trust him. Over time, he started to understand. Now, Nelson is working on a “stay close” command: no leashes, with the dogs walking behind him at his knees. Awesome.
So on Saturday, after we calmly spent an hour or so on this walking tour with other people…and seeing how incredibly well-behaved Rex and Marley were…I was overcome with gratitude.
Three and a half years of diligent training. Reinforcing. Failing. Trying again. Being tired and frustrated. Seeing Nelson step up to reinforce the training. Watching the dogs respond. Seeing them get it.
And finally, as we were walking along Saturday, we passed someone and she said, “What nice dogs!” I thought my heart would burst with pride.
Success comes slowly. With practice. With patience. With diligent reinforcement. With frustration. Admittedly with anger sometimes.
Yet, if you stick to it, it does come.
Gentle reader, where are trying to succeed? Are you practicing every single day? Or most every day? Have you let go of the idea of perfection?
Good. Because often all you need to do is persist consistently. That’s the real secret to success.
Don’t give up.
Afterall, if I can teach two unruly dogs to walk quietly on leashes for an hour-long tour, surrounded by people, screaming kids, and the occasional other dog, then surely you can succeed at whatever you’re trying, too.
P.S. My clients thrive with practice, accountability and consistency. I’m creating a summer series to help you: teleclasses, videos, and personal Q&A calls. The goal of the summer series is to get you out of overwhelm and making room for things that matter, all in 30 days or less. Are you in? Details soooooon.