This week, it was my turn to be the primary caregiver for Heidi, our puppy. That means I was in charge of all her training, feeding, and disciplining. As a family, we generally all share the responsibilities that come with having dogs, so this added responsibility was a little different. With more responsibilities and involvement in Heidi's training, I learned a few things.
Dogs learn from their surroundings and actions of those around them. Most dogs can be taught anything with enough patience and dedication on their mentor's part. However, the way we train our dogs is very important to keep things sustainable.
If all we ever do is punish them for their faults and completely disregard any of their successes, the training is not sustainable. Eventually, the dog will resent the owner and this can cause disobedience. In the majority of cases, I would hope this is seen as a negative thing. This isn't fair to the dog because
they are not recognised for any of their successes. Without recognition, they will stop their good behavior because it has no reward.
If we give our dogs rewards every time they do something well and we turn our backs to all their mistakes, their habits won't improve. This method is also unsustainable. The bad may lessen slightly, however the bad habits will still be there. In this case, the owner could become frustrated with the dog because it is not improving. This isn't fair to the dog because they don't know what they're doing wrong as there are no repercussions for bad behavior.
When training and teaching Heidi, pointing out her bad behavior as well as her good behavior is very important to us. The hard part is finding the right balance. We need to recognise her good habits and reward her appropriately to encourage her to continue to keep it up. We also need to discipline her responsibly for her mistakes and bad habits to make it clear that her actions are sometimes undesirable. If we lean too far to either side of the scale, our relationship with Heidi would be damaged, her training would suffer immensely and it would no longer be sustainable.
Despite being a generally optimistic person, I find it easy to forget to look at my successes and I let the failures overshadow them completely. In reality, every failure is a success because we learn from them. I need to treat myself more like Heidi when training myself. I need to recognise my successes as well as my "failures" to maintain a good relationship with my goals and self. If all I do is beat myself up for not obtaining said goal, that relationship will be damaged and I will soon resent the goal and stop trying completely. On the flip side, if I only recognise successes and turn my back to the shortcomings, those shortcomings will never cease to exist and mediocrity would become inevitable. If I can learn to maintain that balance, it will help me stay motivated and maintain a good relationship with my goals. This next week, I'm going to work on this by writing out my successes and shortcomings of my IHC year to date. I believe we are around half way through the year already (yikes!), so this self assessment will be good for me to do.