I just adopted a dog in June and enrolled in a group adult dog-training class. It was very key to the happy relationship I am now enjoying with my dog.
I always thought, though, that dog training was magical. They call Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer, after all. It suggests there are tricks and tips that will get your pup hanging onto your every word and gesture.
The truth is more about patience. Because there are very few things that a dog will do the first time you ask him to do it. It takes repetition: consistency.
It is also incremental. I thought that once a dog learned to sit, you could get him to sit anywhere. But sit-and-stay on command in the kitchen with no distractions is not at all the same as when we’re outside and a rabbit runs by. Dogs do not connect the dots. At least, not my dog, Vinny. I can teach him not to jump up on my bed, but that doesn’t mean he won’t jump up on the guest bed, until I teach him not to jump on it, too. He is the poster child for living in the now, when I thought he’d draw a correlation from past events. I know — what was I thinking?
Like most of the things I’ve been learning since getting Vinny, I started to see how applicable these lessons are to my human endeavors.
Cardio conditioning, weightlifting, learning anything new: best achieved when I chunk it down to its bite-size pieces. There is a psychological as well as physical benefit: I am rewarded with incremental achievements. I doubt that anyone ever ran their first marathon by starting out running their first marathon. Babies crawl before they walk — you get it.
I’m finding this is true of relationships, as well. Imagine if wedding proposals happened on the first date. If you weren’t both at that same speed and fervor, you’d probably find the rush overwhelming. Instead, most of us get comfortable talking and finding mutual values and interests first. We determine if there is an attraction. Even this can change over time. Haven’t you ever experienced someone’s appeal blossom as you came to see their heart, their humor, their strengths? Or the reverse — the immediate chemistry wanes after you are witness to waitstaff being chided, or when any other violation of your values comes to the surface.
Getting acquainted cannot be microwaved. Pace goes to the slowest, or the slower one tends to drop out, fall back, or just freeze. If the faster one can accept (surrender) the incremental approach, the two might be able to continue to explore, discover and enjoy the journey.