Category Archives: Human Training with Love

Begging for Attention

Dogs and humans love attention. Dogs love to be loved, looked at, played with and praised. Some dogs require more attention than others and some have been conditioned and trained to beg for attention. When I was a kid, I had a golden retriever named Sarah who would push her snout under my hand and insist that I pet her. She would stop at nothing to have me touching her, petting her, loving her and adoring her. I would always give in and pet her all the time, so the snout nudging continued and naturally the behavior increased. Oftentimes, a lot of ‘bad behavior’ is a result of a dog seeking attention. Instead of a casual, cute nudge of the nose, attention-seeking behavior might be displayed in ways that are often incorrectly interpreted as ‘dominant’ behavior. Pawing, jumping up, mouthing, barking etc., have been coined as being aggressive displays of dogs trying to be ‘alpha dogs’. However, this is simply not the case.

 
Dogs are constantly being affected by their environment and also operating on it. The first time that a puppy jumps up onto someone’s lap they are usually met with a cute, loving gaze and a happy smile from someone that thinks the behavior is adorable. The puppy learns that jumping up gets him attention and adoration. Something that is good and pleasurable, so the behavior is being rewarded meaning that it will increase. Eventually the puppy grows up into a 70 lb. exuberant 10 month old youngster and the jumping up in someone’s lap is considered bad, dominant behavior that should be harshly corrected with a jerk on a leash. The punishment doesn’t often work however, because one person may harshly punish the puppy, but then the next person might still think it’s cute, so the puppy becomes confused and anxiety may set in. It’s the owner’s responsibility to realize that the puppy was taught one thing and now there are new expectations. The owner must start training himself to only pet the puppy when he is sitting. Something I like to call Sit-for-Pets. If the puppy jumps it’s important to turn your back to your puppy and not look at him until he is calm enough for you to ask him to sit. As soon as he’s sitting, then you can turn around and pet him while telling him, “Good sit!”. If your dog is capable of bowling over people and scratching their legs up, it’s important to manage the first part of the training by stepping on a leash and asking people to not give your giant, lovable, jumping pup any attention until he calms down and sits. As soon as he sits, they can give him all the love and attention in the world. Then the puppy will be rewarded with good positive attention instead of the puppy turning into giant jumping bean who is begging for attention regardless if it’s positive or negative attention.
 
Pawing, mouthing, barking, whining and other behaviors along these lines, are all inventive ways that dogs have used to elicit attention from their owners. People who push their dog away and say their dog’s name followed by a no all the time, are all giving in to what their dog wants- attention! Even if it’s negative attention they are happy. Just looking at them makes them happy. Just saying their name is attention. As a result, the behavior will continue and sometimes even get worse.
 

 
So, how do you extinguish unwanted attention seeking behaviors? Simply by ignoring it altogether. I know, I know this can be very, very difficult. It’s no fun to have a giant great dane pawing you with his big ol’ paw or a whiny poodle sit there crying at you. But you have to stick to your guns and be consistent. The other very important part of the equation is to identify and understand what your dog needs. Does your dog need to go outside to go potty, is he hungry, is he not well-exercised, is he not feeling well, etc.? Before the attention seeking behaviors start happening, make sure that all of your dog’s basic needs have been met. Then it’s very important to ask yourself, “How can I show my dog what I want him to do instead?”. For example, if your dog chews on anything in sight or jumps in your lap when you’re trying to watch TV, make sure that your dog has been well-exercised and mentally stimulated that day, and then teach your dog to go to his spot, ‘settle’, and reward him with praise, treats or a bully stick for staying on his bed. You can also click and treat your dog anytime that your dog is just laying there. Imagine that! Treating your dog for just relaxing! Too often we forget to reward calm behavior and instead we give too much attention to bad behavior. Humans have a ‘bad’ habit of having a negative bias, meaning we tend to give too much attention to negative things and we often overlook positive, good or comfortable things.
 
The other day, I realized that I was being an ‘attention-seeking dog’. The waves had been really good all weekend and as a result, I didn’t see much of my boyfriend. He was either surfing or working all weekend, so poor little needy me got a little grouchy. I put on a pouty face and decided to not be very pleasant when my boyfriend needed me to do him a favor. He had no idea why I was upset and responded with negative attention, “What’s the matter with you?”. I realized that I was almost happy because of the negative attention! “No wonder so many couples get into arguments”, I thought to myself. It’s simply another way of getting attention. Realizing that I was being an attention-seeking dog (aka a bitch), I decided to communicate my frustration and turn it into a positive experience instead. “I’m sorry, I just realized that I’ve missed you this weekend, and I would love to go on a date with you tonight when you have some time, ” I told him. All of a sudden, the whole mood changed and my loving boyfriend said, “Of course!”, and we ended up going out that night and had a wonderful conversation over a yummy dinner. I got the positive attention that I was begging for and my boyfriend got a pleasant girlfriend rather than a bitchy one. Problem solved due to positive, effective communication! You can train yourself, your boyfriend and your dog with positive reinforcement training!
 
Happy training!

How to Train Yourself to Be a Cleaner Person

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Living in a dog house is a dirty business. With two shedding golden retrievers, a long hair orange cat, a brother, a fiancé, the sand from the beach, lizards, dust from our disintegrating old building, and the constant flow of people in and out of our house, it’s basically impossible to keep our house spick and span. My good friends will tell you that it’s not easy being a house guest at our place. One of my brother’s friends was sleeping and got pooped on by our bad cat Bear and another one of my friends woke up with a cricket in her bed. We’ve also found a mealworm or two in our couch cushions. There’s fur balls the size of golden retriever puppies under my couch and the amount of sand on the floor calls for flip flops all year around. Our house has been called the Neptune Zoo on more than one occasion and our friends have learned to stay at the Travel Lodge up the road.

Needless to say, cleaning my apartment is no easy feat even though it’s only 1,000 sq. feet. I moved in with Matt and my brother four years ago and it was definitely an adjustment. Matt has a lot of toys and a tendency to leave a snail trail behind him. I can walk into our place and know exactly what Matt has been up to all day. He cares more about organized closets than leaving trash and crumbs all over the counters. However he is really good about taking out the trash and if I ever ask him to clean something up he’s really good about it. Still, the level of mess drives me bonkers sometimes and at one point I just wanted to give up!

I can’t just blame Matt and the animals for our messy house. I have a terrible habit of leaving clothes all over our room. I have a weird mental problem with not being able to put my lightly worn clothes back into the closet with my clean clothes, and I definitely can’t put those clothes in with my dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Strange, I know! So instead my slightly smelly clothes end up on top of the laundry basket and then start spilling onto the floor making them even dirtier so they end up as actually dirty clothes. I’m also not the biggest fan of doing dishes and I can’t stand bathroom germs. I can only clean my bathroom if I’m going to take a shower right after. I’ve seen way too many black light tv shows to want to clean my toilet or use a dirty dish rag to clean my kitchen counters. You would think I would want to clean my bathroom all the time because of the germs, but I put it off because I don’t want to get personal with the petri dish of bacteria which is my bathroom. I’m also not super great about organizing closets. If it’s behind closed doors, it hardly exists. I’m a surface cleaner who’s also a germ-a-phobe. I also can’t stand vacuuming or mopping floors, which is a must-do living with dogs on the beach.

So what is a dirty dog girl to do? I’ve decided to train myself (and influence those that I live with) to be cleaner. Matt and I made up a chore chart because I hate nagging and I don’t want our happiness dampened by our unclean living space. The chore chart has made all of us more mindful of how much we should clean and how much we actually do. The satisfaction of checking off a chore feels really good. I remember being a kid and asking my mom if I could make myself a chore chart, mostly because I wanted to use shiny stars to reward myself for cleaning up my room (another strange thing) and I wanted a weekly allowance. To this day I still love the satisfaction of a simple check mark or a shiny star. Funny how something so simple can make me so happy. I also LOVE the feeling  of having a clean house. Which is why I’ve been training myself over the last year to make better habits.

Just like with training dogs, it’s important to make baby steps and to look at simple solutions first.  Matt got me the best Christmas present ever this year- the pet hair edition iRobot Roomba named Harriet (pun intended). I LOVE Harriet. Anyone who lives with dogs must have this amazing piece of technology. I can honestly say that not having tumbleweeds of golden hair flying across my floor has increased my happiness by tenfold. It’s the BEST feeling to multi-task and turn on Harriet while I’m doing dishes and then by the time I’m done, my whole house looks ten times cleaner and I can walk around with bare feet. My friend Nadiah has an  iRobot named Sandy and we can’t wait to get them together for a playdate. I highly recommend reading the Amazon reviews for the iRobot. The best one is about someone’s iRobot smearing huge circles of cat poo all over their house. Don’t let this be you. Make sure you check your house for cat poo before turning on your robot. I know I do. Also, if anyone reads this, please tell Matt that I want a Scooba iRobot for my birthday. That would be the best birthday present in the whole world. No more mopping!

In order to decrease my nagging and my frustration with our apartment, Matt decided to hire a cleaning company. Once a week we have our amazing house cleaners, Vicky and Alicia come and do big cleaning. I LOVE them and they make magic happen. If you want their number just let me know, they are incredible and so very sweet. It’s worth every penny when you live in a dog house with two boys. They’ve increased my happiness exponentially. Cleanliness equals happiness.

After reading what I just wrote, I do kind of sound like I’m an extremely lazy person, but I swear I’m not! Life gets busy and if you can get help from a robot named Harriet and have someone do big cleaning, you can increase your productivity, reduce your bitchiness toward the people you live with and create more time for having fun. Because cleaning up is a lot easier now, I don’t mind cleaning up as much. In fact, I’ve been teaching myself to do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening before I sit down and relax on the couch. It’s a great way to start the day and a great way to unwind from the day. I’ve also learned to see Matt’s snail trail as a love trail. He doesn’t see the mess, so I’ve learned to accept it and to leave sticky notes pointing out the mess rather than nag at him. Nagging is a major buzz kill for any relationship. All of this is probably not rocket science to a person who is naturally clean who lives by themselves with no animals, but for me, it’s made a world of a difference. Oh and I’ve learned to hang up my medium dirty clothes in a special spot behind my bedroom door where people can’t see them. Not that anyone cares.

Now that I’ve aired my dirty laundry to the world (another intended pun), I hope that I’ve been able to help other dirty dog girls learn how to keep a cleaner dog house. Trust me, I still have a long way to go before I’m a super clean dog girl, but for now, the crickets are no longer in our house, the cat is more potty trained (depending on whether or not he’s mad at us), the mealworms are in the lizard cages, and Harriet continues to suck at her job, in a good way.

Man Training with Love

Over the last few years, I can’t help but notice the quirky parallels between dog training and man training. I’m not a bra blazing feminist or an over bearing girlfriend and I’m not a yank-and-crank dog trainer. In fact, I don’t even believe in ‘training’ any sort of animal or man (huh?!). I just like the catchy title! Another title could be “Leashing the Bitch in You”, but that’s still a little shocking. What I do firmly believe in is learning how to live with love, positivity, passion, happiness and balance so that I can better communicate with all people and animals in my life. They say that you can’t change men and I agree with that- but I do know that I can change myself to become a happier more loving person. In turn, my man (and anyone else that you interact with throughout your day) will react to my actions and behavior in a more loving, respectful and compassionate way.

Gandhi says it best, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” If you want to influence anyone’s behavior- whether it’s a dog, a child, your mom, a neighbor or your man- you must first change yourself and dedicate yourself to being the most compassionate, loving and happiest person that you can be. Nobody likes to be around a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy, but lots of people and animals want to be around the person that exudes love, acceptance, happiness and joy. Be Joy!

Training dogs has taught me that they are simply a reflection of my own behavior and they will mirror my attitude, energy level, and presence in the moment. If I want to truly connect to a dog and if I want to transcend the species communication gap, I have to truly commit to giving my everything to the moment and time that I am spending with the dog. I have to make the most out of every single interaction because dogs are constantly responding to their environment and my reaction to their behavior. If my mind is spinning out of control and thinking about all of the stresses in life- car problems, man problems, whatever problems- the dog’s mind will also wander and a leaf blowing across the sidewalk will quickly become more interesting than me and my petty little problems. But! If I’m completely living in the moment, smiling, giving my full attention and using a happy voice and only thinking about the joyful creature in front of me- we become one entity connected by the mind on a spiritual level that transcends language. You can call it meditation, an out-of-body experience, or simply love.

Communication, through spoken language and body language is a vital part of our lives that allows us to live in social groups and also live harmoniously with different species of the animal world. Sometimes those species may be dogs, or even men. Both men and dogs are hairier, smellier and often more simple than women yet we manage fall very deeply in love with them. We love dogs for their loyalty, companionship and playful personalities, and we love men for similar characteristics.

Sometimes however, the communication between women and these other species goes awry causing major culture clash, emotional stress and sometimes abandonment. The culture clash refers to the two different worlds that dogs and people live in, as well as the two different worlds that men and women often live in. These worlds and ways of life all intersect and are often very fluid, however they often clash. For instance, dogs are expected to live under a human’s roof, but we often forget that dogs are animals and would naturally sleep under the stars or in a den under ground if they were living as wild dogs. Instead we invite our dogs to sleep and live in our houses, but oftentimes instead of showing our dogs how we want them to live in our culture, we yell and scream at dogs for peeing on the floor. In dog culture, there is no difference between the outside and inside of a house, and carpet may seem like very soft grass. It’s up to us as humans to learn how to communicate as clearly as possible cross-species so that we may live harmoniously with positive energy and pure love.

As for men and women, our human culture has been made to be very gender specific and since birth we are socially constructed to be Man or Woman. Girls wear pink, boys don’t cry. Parent’s communicate these ‘differences’ from the start, but when girls and boys become women and men in the dating world, these differences in way of life sometimes collide. For example, women often complain that their spouse should just know what they are thinking, but men are not psychics and are often not as analytical as women. Instead of flying off the handle and bitching and yelling at our significant others, there are more positive and effective ways of communicating our thoughts and wants. For instance, if your man always says that he will be home from work at six, but then doesn’t get home till seven and you yell at him the minute he steps through the door, he’s not going to want to come home any faster. Instead, sincerely and happily be excited when he comes home, especially when he gets home somewhat earlier than before. Give him a big smack on the lips, lots of hugs and whatever else, and then let him have his space and veg. He’ll start wanting to come home faster and earlier. I’m not so much a traditionalist, but more so a purist who believes in effective communication and positive reinforcement to live more stress free.

There are no written answers about how to know when you’ve found the ‘One’, or whether or not you are in a good relationship because every relationship is different and every relationship has it’s benefits and downfalls. There’s countless books written about how men and women are different and how to date, how to get married, how to have kids and how to get a divorce. However, there needs to be a manual about how to live harmoniously through clear communication between different species. How to ‘train’ yourself to communicate your desires, needs and expectations in the most positive and succinct way. So instead of yelling at your man and your dog, you can start training yourself to be a more balanced, effective and happy individual who knows how to clearly communicate to the animals and people that you love most in your life. That way everyone can live happily, respectfully and peacefully under one roof.

 

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The man that I love with all of my heart who I strive to be a better person for everyday.