Category Archives: Human Training with Love

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.

How to Train Yourself to Be Happy!

In the last few years I’ve been obsessing over the concept of happiness. From East to West I’ve studied all kinds of different practices that bring people happiness. I’ve read books about Zen buddhism, Taoism, Existentialism and lots of other -isms. And I’ve asked everyone I know what they think happiness means, but the whole time I’ve had the happiest creatures teaching me about happiness right under my very nose. Dogs! Dogs are born happy. They’re just happy to be a dog and do what dogs do best- play, eat, cuddle, sleep, run, smell, repeat. They are masters of keeping it simple, living in the moment and having fun. It’s as easy as that!

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You’re probably thinking, “Brittany, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not a dog.” Alas, sadly I’m not a dog. I am a dog girl who loves to study dog and human behavior. Over the last 7+ years of training dogs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not just a dog trainer, I’m mostly a human trainer. Being a human trainer is a tricky business. Humans don’t really like to be trained or controlled, as result there’s an art to shaping human behavior so that they think it’s their idea. Communicating effectively, giving simple directions and using positive reinforcement is the absolute best way to change human behavior because no one wants to be told that they’re bad at something and they definitely don’t want to be belittled or put down. Humans also have big egos compared to dogs, so it’s really important to encourage rather than chastise a person otherwise they’ll want to give up. When I work with dogs, I’d rather be patient and let a dog slowly figure something out on their own, instead of shocking them with an electric collar or screaming at them when they’re trying to choose the right thing. Yes, there have been a few humans that I’ve wanted to zap with a shock collar because they were so abusive to their dogs, but I managed to kill them with kindness instead and teach them a different way of working with their dogs by treating them with the same patience, love and respect that I would with their dogs.

When people call me to come to their house for a dog training session, they’re in a state of stress and extreme frustration. Humans often become shut off from their dogs at this point or they’re so frustrated that they’ve become very Neanderthal aggressive with their dogs because nothing else seems to be working. I always start with discussing the behavior problems and then turning the issues on their head. Meaning, if John is upset with his dog for barking at other dogs when they’re on a walk, instead of saying, “I hate it when Lucky barks at other dogs” we change it to “I want Lucky to sit and stay calmly and give me attention when other dogs walk by.” Then we discuss how much play time, dog time and exercise that Lucky normally gets. Usually, Lucky is hardly ever walked because of the embarrassment that Lucky causes his human so the problem is compounded and only becomes worse because of all of his pent up energy and frustration. On top of it, Lucky is never let off-leash to run and play naturally because his owner John is probably afraid of what Lucky will do if they see another dog. In order to change Lucky’s behavior we also have to change John’s behavior and attitude towards his dog’s problems. It’s important to face dog problems with compassion because they’re stuck in our human world of small apartments, little yards and restrictive leashes. They’re also not born with comprehension of the human language.

So John and I start from the ground up. From the the root of all of the problems, by teaching John how to effectively communicate with his dog and by showing Lucky how we expect him to behave in our human world. Just like you can’t teach a five year old calculus, we can’t expect dogs to learn complex behaviors without teaching them basic arithmetic. And we certainly can’t force people to get over arachnophobia by throwing them into a room full of spiders, just like we can’t instantly teach dogs to suddenly love all dogs if they’re fearful of them. Dog training takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. Human training takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. Creating happiness takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment. I don’t need to search for the meaning of happiness in books or in other people. Dogs have been teaching it to me all along.

That’s why I’ve decided to start teaching myself to be the happiest that I can be by using dog training techniques. Happiness is a very personal definition, but for me, happiness is cuddling with my furballs, having deep conversations with my man, balancing work and fun, playing with my loved ones, loving the great outdoors, eating healthy foods, cooking for my family and friends, sharing love through written word and art, training dogs, loving humanity, learning to whole-heartedly love myself so that I can love others even more, working hard to better the lives of dogs and their humans, and living life literally like there’s no tomorrow. In order to do all of this and to be the happiest person that I can be, I’ve decided to challenge myself and train myself to work on my behavior problems. Fortunately I don’t bark at the mailman, but I do bite my nails and I have a laundry list of other highly unfavorable bad habits.

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s amazing book and blogThe Happiness Project, I’ve decided to tackle my bad habits by training myself to become a better human. Every month I’m going to create certain goals and then use my handy-dandy dog training techniques to change my bad behavior. Instead of being a bad dog girl, I’m on a mission to become a good dog girl. Keep your ears perked and paws ready because I’m going to be sharing with you all of my “issues” and hopefully my trials and tribulations. March 1st is the New Year for this dog girl!

Peace, Paws & Love,

Brittany : )