Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Dog Behavior’

How to Train Your Writing (and Your Puppy)

In Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Motivation, Writing Tips on August 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm

ZoeyBegs2 09-2014

Zoey the Dachshund demonstrates Up as one of her obedience tricks.

Improving writing skills and training a puppy have some similarities.

I got Zoey, a long-haired miniature dachshund, nine years ago when she was nine weeks old. I started writing when I was eight or nine—short stories and cute poems—becoming serious about it in college.

With both, I had to train my puppy and I had to train my writing. Neither came naturally to me, so I had to become a student to learn the essentials and then become more proficient with practice.

Training Writing, Training a Puppy

I found that to do either well requires research, experience and knowledge—and, of course, patience. I read about a dozen books about dog training, dog behavior and the dachshund breed, and with writing, I read close to 50 books about the writing process and various elements of writing, along with two monthly magazines.

I took Zoey to puppy kindergarten and through intermediate training to provide her with skills in basic obedience. She received a certificate and had her photo taken with a mini-dog graduation cap.

To make sure there isn’t slide, we practice those skills on a daily basis—commands like sit, down, stay, shake and come and walking on a leash. We, however, haven’t got past the treat effect—Zoey expects and requires a treat for each skill she demonstrates. For her shakes, she rapidly waves her paw as she tries to be patient. I touch it and give her what she wants.

We go on walks, and I learned that I shouldn’t pull her on her leash but patiently wait for her to understand what I want through treats and praises. I praise her when she walks and wait her out when she sniffs. I praise her when we return to walking. She gets a treat when we get home.

She especially likes it when people want to stop and give her attention—dogs are social animals and need to have comfort and routine.

How to Improve Writing, Dog Behavior

Here are a few things I learned about maintaining good behavior in a dog (and how it relates to writing):

  • Provide at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to keep the dog healthy and to release energy that when unused can result in poor behaviors (write at least once a week to keep up the routine and practice of writing; more if there is time).
  • Do obedience training to improve the dog’s mental stamina and prowess (do writing prompts, even for five minutes, to stimulate the mind and promote larger pieces of writing).
  • Do obedience training on a consistent basis to turn a dog’s good behaviors into a habit (write on a consistent basis, such as once a week, to turn that practice into a habit).
  • Offer regular playtimes, so the dog can build a relationship with you and also have fun (think of writing as a hobby and something that is for after work or playtime).
  • Pet the dog through belly rubs, head patting and massages to create an emotional bond (think of your writing as a relationship between you and your words).
  • Set the same time every night for bedtime, so that dogs have an expectation of when to settle down (write at the same time and in the same place to create an expectation that now is the time to write, even if the writing may not seem good or out of flow, or at least at first).

These are just a few ways to provide a pattern to let the dog (and your writing self) know what to expect, thereby establishing a good routine to follow. The result is a well-trained dog and a well-trained writer, eager to get to the work and fun of both.

The Bad Boy-Bad Dog Connection

In Shyness on August 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

What do bad boys and bad dogs have in common?

Let’s start with the bad boy dilemma that can be epitomized by James Dean in a leather jacket with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Give me moody eyes, chiseled cheekbones and ripped muscles with unresolved childhood issues, a penchant for the drink and some mark of rebellion from rule breaking to avoiding 9-to-5 responsibility.

Being with the bad boy is a rollercoaster ride with your arms up and a scream as you plummet into a twisting tunnel that rocks your body along the curve of insecurity. He’s a challenge, a thrill, a mystery until that jarring stop at the end of the ride signaling his rejection.

I read an online article this week exploring why females like bad boys. One of the conclusions the writer had was that women like to fix things. I agree to a point in that the bad boy presents a challenge to get through to his emotional core. But I really don’t have a clue how, even though, embarrassingly enough, I’ve tried.

I’ve dated a few bad boys, because I wanted to be with their good looks, thinking that if this epitome of maleness can like me than I must be worth something. I used to think: What better way to prove your self worth than to get a hot guy with issues to straighten his act and adore you as a result?

But it was all castles in the air.

My dating history boils down to this bad boy chase of dating moody, drink-guzzling, non-communicative, commitment-phobic men. In other words, it was a big waste of time.

But hold on. Now instead of dating bad boys, I’ve got this bad dog to change. My 9-pound miniature dachshund looks sweet and cute, but she’s got issues. It started with her barking from my second-story patio at the big dog passersby. To get her to stop, I snap my finger three times, glare into her eyes and say, “No bark.” But then another dog comes by and she returns to barking.

Or we’ll sit outside at a coffee shop patio table, where Zoey, deciding the circle around our table is her territory, has a penchant for barking at the big dogs. They give her a look like “Are you kidding?” or they bark back with their owners pulling on their leashes.

Zoey’s become more aggressive over the summer months with jaws snapping and paws flying about as I hold her in the air by her harness. The culmination was this weekend when she and Sophie, her “best dog friend” who she hasn’t seen in months, spent a weekend together.

Sophie tried to play with Zoey’s toys and Zoey barked at her. I told her, “NO!” “Bad dog,” and the like and put her in three timeouts. She didn’t stop her bad behavior.

My sweet little puppy who I took through Puppy Kindergarten and Intermediate training and read a half-dozen dog behavior and training books to raise has me doubting my ability to tame the bad boy or bad girl in any creature, whether man or dog.

I feel like I’m at the beginning of my teenage angst but instead of trying to figure out the mysteries of men, I’m trying to figure out my dog.