It's been a while since I wrote my last blog. I've been distracted by my first pet, a 9 week old Havanese puppy, Muffin. Needless to say, she has become the center of attention in our household and has stolen my heart. While I work on training her, she already has a head start on training me. Here are some of the life lessons I am learning from this little bundle of joy.
1. Be fully present
Muffin is always in the moment. She goes from hyper- to full speed ahead - to I'm just going to lie here- to I want to cuddle -to I need to chew, from moment to moment, More surprising is the fact that I find myself being more in the moment as well. Even though I am busier now, I am not constantly thinking about pending work to be done or ruminating over things I have already done. As a result, I have been less stressed and more present in work and play. (Besides, if I let my mind wander for even an instant, my puppy will pee on my floor:-)
2. Be clear in my communication
Muffin is super social and appears to watch our every move and listen to everything we say very carefully. I am realizing that I often say too many words with lots of room for ambiguity. Moreover, my body language does not always match what I am saying . By becoming more aware of my own visual and verbal cues and being more selective about what I really want to say, I am communicating more precisely and Muffin is starting to understand more and more of what I want.
3. Be more attentive
Yes, I need to communicate clearly, but I also need to learn to actively "listen" to my puppy as she is always communicating something too. Slowly but surely I am getting to know what she likes, fears, dislikes, is going to do next and so on. I am also getting better at picking up on her energy and subtle cues.(read: I have to go...NOW:-)
4. Be motivated
Motivation is the key to learning. With the right motivation, Muffin is eager to learn and show off what she has learnt. But she very clearly wants to know "What's in it for me?" And really, it's about what matters to her, not just what we think should matter to her. What matters can be praise, treats, cuddling, playing, going outside. - or all of the above at different times. Working with her motivation is so much more effective than trying to drag her through learning or compliance.
5. Be balanced
In Muffin's world, there is a time for everything. A time to play, a time to learn, a time to sleep, a time to socialize, a time for herself etc. I have always had a tendency to work relentlessly to be productive. This week, I have added play back into my life. It is impossible not to play with a naturally exuberant puppy. I continue to enjoy my work, but I no longer constantly check my phone or emails, or try to fill my day with busy work for the sake of being "productive". I now am able to close the door on work and go have some fun for the simple pleasure of having fun.
7. Be creative
If what I am doing is not working, I have to do it differently. Seems obvious, but if something was not working, my first instinct was to do it louder, faster, more often and for longer. I really am learning to be more creative and work smarter rather than harder. Puppy is going to be puppy with her personality, strengths and challenges. It is up to me to figure out how to teach, communicate and motivate her in a way that works for her.
8. Be consistent
Turns out that people are consistently inconsistent. It also turns out that it is pretty important to be consistent and set firm boundaries for puppies. Otherwise they do not learn what is acceptable, what is safe and what is going to help them be successful in our society. Just like kids, they test boundaries and figure out their place in the social group.
Lots of lessons from one little bundle of fur in a little more than a week. Now, if I could only use all this wisdom to get her potty trained:-)