If you’ve taken classes with me, you know that I am a big proponent of using a lot of vocalization with our dogs. Your voice can indicate so many things to your dog if it is used properly. If I am working on a relaxing behavior, my praise will be slow and often in a lower tone. If I am working on a recall and trying to get my dog to come to me as fast as I can, my voice is animated, repetitive and upbeat! All of this can help the dog understand just exactly what our expectations are.

The voice that I want to discuss today, however, is the one you use to talk to yourself. I want you to take a moment to realize that training is hard and all the work you have been doing matters. By taking training classes, you are as much a student in the class as the dogs are. Recognize that you aren’t going to get everything just right the first time you try it. Your trainers are there to help guide you and when we offer suggestions it is to help you develop even better skills! We are rooting for you every step of the way!

Unfortunately, you can’t take your trainers home with you so you will need to depend on your inner voice to guide you at home. That voice in your head can either help you or hurt you. It is so easy to talk ourselves out of practicing (we don’t have time!) or to blame the dog we are working with (they just aren’t that smart!) when deep down we know the only thing really holding back our training is us. Believe me, I get it. I make excuses all the time for the things I can’t get to… “I’ll lose weight, just as soon as I eat all the junk food in the cabinet so that it isn’t there to tempt me anymore.” We all have our inconsistencies and our contradictions. My goal here this month is for all of us to do some spring cleaning and get those sticky cobwebs of negativity out of our heads. Let’s not let them destroy our motivation and our momentum.

Here is what I want you to do this month:

  1. Come up with one excuse or negative thought that is preventing you from reaching your training goals with you dog and write it down on a piece of paper. Ex: “I can’t exercise my dog because the yard is too muddy.”
  2. Make a commitment that for one week that excuse is “thrown out the window.” On the same piece of paper, rephrase your statement to read as a positive statement. Ex. “I WILL exercise my dog DESPITE the yard being too muddy.”
  3. Create an action plan. How will you make the statement you wrote in step #2 come true? Ex: “Instead of exercising my dog in the yard this week, I will do 2 sessions of tug each morning and 1 session of throwing the ball down the hallway inside each day. I will also feed my dog exclusively out of puzzle toys this week.”
  4. Commit to the plan. Place your edited paper, with your statement in step #2, in a place you will see it each morning (like your bathroom mirror). Commitment breeds commitment. If you can change just one single thing and get success, you will be more likely to tackle those other negative thoughts and excuses you have been using against yourself.
  5. After a week, re-evaluate your plan. Were you able to be successful this week? If not, how could you have altered your plan so that you were able to stick to it? Decide if you want to re-do your current goal or tackle a new one.

Feeling like you need to be held accountable to someone besides yourself? No problem. Sometimes just telling someone your plan is enough to help you stick to it. You can use the comment form at the bottom of this page to send me your statement and action plan. If you do, I promise to keep your emails confidential and I will check in with you and cheer you on!

In the meantime, I’ve got some junk food I need to throw away…

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Nicole L Yuhas CPDT-KA

This blog is intended to be informative as well as entertaining. It contains my opinion which may not reflect the opinions of any organization I may be affiliated with. My opinions should not be interpreted as those of my coworkers, family, friends, casual acquaintances, and certainly not the opinion of my cat, although my dog probably agrees with everything I say, if for no other reason, than because I provide the treats and meals (cats are less inclined to agree with anyone but themselves). Information provided here is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge but, as information and opinions change, neither the facts nor the opinions expressed here may be true or accurate at any future date. As I don’t currently own a time machine, I cannot be responsible for things that prove to be untrue, or opinions I change my mind about, should those changes become apparent in the future. It should also be noted that, as I am human, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes in the information provided here. Frankly, even if I were a computer, it is likely there would be errors, as computers, in my experience, can be a royal pain in the butt. This blog may contain affiliate links which you are under no obligation to click. If you click them, they will hopefully take you the place I intended. But they may not. As I’ve said, computers can be a pain. If you find yourself somewhere you don’t think I intended, click your ruby slippers three times together and say, “there is no place like home.” If you do that, and click the “back” button, you should be safely returned. Computers can, at times, have a mind of their own. Any training suggestions or opinions expressed here should be taken as information only and should not be seen as advice particular to you or your dog’s unique situation. Please consult with a training professional before taking any action.

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