Girls with Goals

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And the winner is…..

“Sit”…… click….. praise. 

“Heel”… click…treat.

“Off”… click… pat.

So, the clicker training continues and I am learning that consistency is hard.  I feel like my life has been overrun by sharp tinny noises and monosyllabic commands!

However much of a commitment this clicker training has been, my trusty pal has definitely developed a keen ear for the “click.”  On walks he knows right where I keep it in my pocket and continually gazes up at it while prancing down the sidewalk.   He knows that sooner or later he will do something “click worthy” and will get to enjoy a yummy reward.

And while I am overall pretty impressed with the progression of the clicker training, I am even more amazed at my attitude throughout the whole process.  You see, while doing research on the clicker method, I came across a book called Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz, and this book has changed my life.

One night, I came across a concept proposed by Horowitz that totally went against everything I thought I knew about dogs (and I read A LOT of dog books.)  According to Alexandra and her research, you, as the owner (or adoptive parent, if you prefer) of your dog do not need to be the alpha of the pack!

photo by Erin Vey

In fact…there really isn’t a deep pack mentality engrained in most domestic dog breeds!  She explains that because we, as humans, are not sure what to do with animals living among us, we assign these notions of packs and alphas to our living environments in an attempt to create order and organization in our lives.  In other words, we are not doing it for the dogs, we are doing it for ourselves.  Brilliant!

Now, I will be the first to admit that I was incredibly skeptical about this whole concept upon first read because I have been attributing all of my dogs naughty actions to the fact that he thinks he is “the alpha” for about 2 ½ years now (I am a big Dog Whisperer fan!)

But, what if…… what if……I was letting this “alpha business” get to me, essentially jading my view of the relationship that my dog and I really have?  What if my stress and frustration surrounding my efforts at becoming “master” of my dog was actually damaging our relationsip?  After reading these eye-opening pages, I started slowly (and somewhat skeptically) letting go of my “I always need to be in charge” mentality and started placing a little more trust in my dog.

I stopped nit-picking every little thing he did (getting too excited when another dog walked by, stopping too many times to lift his leg on walks, pulling ahead of me on the leash) and started giving him some of that freedom, while also asking for him to give me some respect in return. 

I slowly began to realize that our walks became a kind of dance.  He gets a little out of line, I calm him down, ask him to sit, reward him with a treat (and click of course!) and let him spend some additional time sniffing next to the mailbox.  It is a compromise, not a power struggle!

I have started to realize that trying to control all of his actions (while trying to be the alpha) was stressing me out and setting me up for failed expectations.  He could sense that (as our dogs are truly are mirrors of our emotions) and would, in turn, become more agitated and rebellious on our walks.  An endless, negative cycle.

Now, I am not saying that we are a perfect pair that will ride (or walk) off into the sunset with never a problem to deal with, or that I will totally discount all that I have learned from the great Cesar Millan, but I am learning to be more open minded with how I communicate with my dog. 

What he and I have is a companionship, not a contest.

Please post your stories (and challenges!) of raising your dog to be a happy, healthy companion.


“Career Move Mondays” – School Daze

One of the best pieces of advice my dad has ever given me is that life is too short to hate going to work every day. 

Now, I am not so disillusioned to think that I will one day have a career that I will excitedly jump out of bed for at 6:00 am on a cold Monday morning, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for to like what you do, at least just a little bit.

I went to college for elementary education.  I loved college; I loved my classes; I loved student teaching, but when it came to getting my own classroom, the love affair quickly died.  At the risk of sounding like a completely horrible monster, I must admit, I am not a huge fan of kids, well large amounts of them in a confined area, anyway. 

I know, I know, then why would I ever choose elementary education as a career to pursue?  Well, as I found out a few years later sitting at my desk adorned with apple trinkets and papers that needed grading (and completely burned out, I must add), it wasn’t the prospect of working with children that had caused me to want to be a teacher, it was my interest in the curriculum that drew me in.

So, here I am, about to enter my 30’s, back in school for instructional design.  I am currently working on an internship at a textbook/software publishing company, and I feel hopeful.  In my spare time, I thumb through 7th grade biology and 6th grade grammar textbooks, and I honestly really enjoy it.  I am a nerd at heart; a nerd that is not a big fan of large numbers of kids, and I have embraced that.  I will still be shaping the leaders of tomorrow; I will just be doing it from behind the scenes.   And, I am not a monster.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no need to be discouraged if your career aspirations are not working out the way you expected them to.  At the risk of sounding too cliché, life is a journey, not a destination.  Finding a career that completely suits, challenges, and makes you happy is a journey.  It takes time. 

However, don’t be discouraged if you are never excited about the thought of getting out of bed at 6:00 am on a cold Monday morning.  There are some things we must learn to live with.

Leave a comment and share parts of your career journey to inspire others.  It always helps to know that you’re not alone!

Happy Monday!


Dysfunctional Love

I. love. dogs.   I am the girl that will bound up to random strangers to pet, kiss, talk to…etc. their dogs.  Slightly weird and maybe a bit dangerous, I know, but if there is a dog within a 2 mile radius I am immediately sucked in.  Also, I should mention, the bigger they are, the longer I stare.

Being such a dog lover, it shouldn’t surprise you that I have one of my own.  And, yes, he is rather large.  A stocky cattle dog mix, tipping the scales at 75 pounds (a little heavier than ideal, but we’re working on it.)  He is my first attempt at raising a dog on my own, and, I must say, I am very proud of our lovingly dysfunctional relationship.

My dog hogs the bed, chases the cat, pulls me on the leash, wipes his face on the couch (right after a long, slobbery drink, of course), and jumps on every visitor that I have ever had over.  Sounds horrible, huh? 

My boy

Well, we have actually come a long way.  After adopting him from the Human Society over 3 years ago,  I have tried my hand at numerous, and sometimes disastrous training techniques.  However, over time I have managed to stop the accidents in the house, successfully crate train him, and teach him commands like “sit,” “down,”” stay,” “wait,” and “paw.”  These may seem like small victories, but if you are a dog owner, you understand that sense of complete satisfaction when your dog starts listening, responding, and working to make you happy.  It is an amazing feeling.  You are connecting with another species.

I read every dog book I can get my hands on.  I read inspirational stories of adoption and love.  I read training books.  I read non fictional books on different types of breeds.  Like many dog owners, I gain inspiration from the rehabilitated dogs on shows like The Dog Whisperer and It’s Me or the Dog .  I am a sucker for the underdog story (no pun intended) of the horribly spastic dog that will seemingly never recover from its obsessions, now living a normal, happy life. 

My goal is to be able to have the kind of healthy, happy, trusting, calmly assertive relationship with my dog that I imagine Cesar Millan having with him (if he ever chose to work with my dog!)

 I want to be my dog’s Cesar.  I want to give him guidance while also allowing him to enjoy the instinctual joys of being a dog.  I want him to feel safe and happy and stress-free.

It is true that my dog is my mirror.  The more tense or stressed out I am, the more unstable he is on our walks.  I have started clicker training with him to reinforce good behavior (especially while on the leash) and try my best to be my happiest, most confident self when interacting with him.     

I want to be the person that my dog needs.  I want to be his Cesar.

I will be posting some tips and tricks I learn during the training process.  Please leave comments about successful (or even failed!) attempts and methods for training your best friend (of the dog variety, that is).



Water bottles n’ such

Hello all!  You can call me Hope.  Thank you all for joining me and the other LA Girls for this wonderfully exciting, sometimes shamefully embarrassing (but in a good way) journey into the world of setting and achieving goals!

As undergraduate elementary education major and an elementary school teacher, over the years it has been pounded into my head that goals need to be measurable; and, in some cases, rightfully so.  Measurable goals are the foundation of the education system, not only here in America, but around the globe.  If a teacher were to say that his/her students would understand how to read a map of the U.S. that doesn’t really specify what the students are going to be asked to do.  A more measurable goal would be to have the students identify all 50 states of America.

Why am I torturing you with such a ridiculously boring, seemingly unrelated lesson on writing goals for elementary students?  Well, here’s why.  After joining Life Anonymous Girls (LA Girls), I started thinking about my own goals that I would like to work toward as a member of the group.  This group, in all of its wonderfully honest glory, has really made me take a hard look at myself.  I would like to set a goal of not letting empty water bottles litter the floor of my car (and, as a side note, would like to stop contributing to the demise of the planet by drinking from water bottles, but that is a whole other issue.)  I would like to exercise more, but who wouldn’t?  I would like to train my overly excitable dog to not smother and bruise my guests as they walk in the door….etc.  There are many goals that I would like to achieve, some that I won’t even put down in writing to spare all of you the gory details, but when I started writing my goals, I started writing them as a teacher would. 

I started saying to myself, “Okay, self… I will throw away…uh, I mean recycle, water bottles from my car 3 times a week.”   Sounds ridiculous, right?  Well, what I think is even more ridiculous, is to put that kind of pressure on myself.  I think everyone can agree that they have enough going on in their lives not to have to worry about how many times they have cleaned out the contents of their car per week. 

Notice, I did not say that I would not leave any water bottles in my car at all…I know better.  I know to start small and set myself up for success.  But, on the other hand, I am not going to beat myself up if I only empty my car of these plastic Earth-destroying monsters (I really DO want to stop using them….baby steps, people, baby steps) once or twice a week instead of three. 

See, the point I am trying to make, is that when you are setting goals for yourself, it is my personal belief that you need not put ridiculous, numerical, expectations on yourself.  You have a feeling about something you would like to change, you make small steps toward that change, and you DO NOT beat yourself up if you stumble here and there along the way.  Remember to think “Big Picture”…it’s the only way to stay sane.