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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dog Training 101: Lessons from the Leash

On this sunny Sunday I was afforded the luxury (read: time) of running on West Cliff Drive. What a morning! The sky was clear, the temperature was just right for running, and I actually had energy! I took our 1-year old mixed spaniel, Miley, with me. I've found that not only do I like her company, but running with her is a great way to reinforce her training. I took note that I said only five phrases to her throughout the whole run: Leave It, Stay Close, Let's Go, Almost Home and (with much enthusiasm) Good Girl! Miley responded to all really well and we had a wonderful time.

For once I tuned out my ipod (not bothering to turn it on except for the stopwatch feature) and just listened to the waves, seal lions, and - of course- my internal chit-chat.

As I coached Miley away from dogs and birds and toward the home-stretch I mused about the commands I use with her. What if I applied them to my own personal training-- my training to be the best I can be? I saw it clearly: the Leave It command, spoken with authority, could redirect me when I travel with too many circular thoughts or venture too close to the cookie jar. Stay Close would remind me to stay on track and to stay with what I know to be good, right and true. Let's Go might gently push me when I lag and Almost Home would renew my commitment when I near completion of a goal. Finally, Good Girl!, delivered often with authenticity, cheer and at least one exclamation point, could reinforce positive behavior and just make me feel loved.

The beauty of this dog-training for people-training approach is its simplicity and familiarity. But I refuse to eat freeze-dried liver treats. :)