January has come to an end. Once I started my resolution to push every day in January, I pushed every day except for two: one day when I had a stomach flu and the last day of January, when I was also under the weather—so I made sure to do a make-up day of pushing February 1 instead. Here are some things I noticed about the month of pushing, and about the exercise of pushing every day for a month.
First, it relaxed me to make daily pushing the goal instead of trying to measure progress by outcomes—is she barking on command yet? Is she heeling? Did X exercise work?—I made the focus of my training effort getting to the daily push, and as long as that occurred, I logged it in my mind as an accomplishment in and of itself, regardless of whether it led to any kind of breakthrough or felt especially good or not. (and I went easy on myself the two days I didn’t make it.)
Second, the daily pushing became a base level of training connection between me and Cholula that laid the groundwork for the occasionally more exciting pushing moments where breakthroughs happened. Some days, I didn’t have extra time or energy to give to the pushing, and so to keep my resolution I just pushed with her briefly out in the back yard for dinner, or took her food with us on our evening walk around the block and pushed at the bottom of the block. Typically, nothing special happened those days, except that we pushed. But I think that groundwork laid the potential for the days I did have energy to arrange hide-and-seek in the woods, as I’ve written about, or for the moment when, on a night I’d planned to give low-level pushing on the sidewalk, a rat ran across the sidewalk in front of us and turned things exciting for Cholula. While these exciting moments were when I felt we were making real progress in terms of bringing Cholula’s energy to me and away from various problem areas (running away, hunting small animals), I think most of them would not have happened had I not established the daily practice.
And in terms of results with Cholula? I don’t have a perfect metric to measure them (and part of the point of the daily pushing resolution was to intensify training efforts without adding the stress of success or failure), but all in all I think my whole family would agree that Cholula is doing fantastic. I can’t completely separate out the last month from the long, slow transformation Cholula’s made from the repressed, stressed dog she was when we brought her home two and a half years ago through my ongoing efforts to use natural dog training, I’m not trying to overstate the changes of just the last month, but she continues to be a softer and softer dog—my husband enjoys taking her out these days, my oldest daughter sits next to her on the couch, snuggling into her warm fur while reading, I no longer cringe when I see another dog approaching on the sidewalk. The past month has seen a flowering of all of these things. The photos are of Cholula hanging out by the side of a playground on an unusually warm day last week, flopping on the grass while the children played. Maybe, just maybe, she too will learn to play–or more precisely, as Lee Charles Kelly reminded me, remember how to play.