The Power of Appreciation

This article has little to do with actions steps or training techniques. In fact, this article is going to focus on the power of appreciation. To some of you this may sound a little goofy….the power of appreciation? To demonstrate my point, consider something for me.

How does your little toe feel right now?  Unless it’s broken you probably had to think about your answer.  What about that breath you just took? Unless you are meditating or have a cracked rib you probably don’t even notice that you are breathing while reading this. Well, now you do since I mentioned it, but you catch my drift. We always seem to appreciate feeling well on the heels of sickness. We appreciate abundance even more when having sat in “not-enoughness” for a while. It is human nature to evolve and expand and part of that expansion requires us to want more. The point that I want to drive home is this. Stand, wherever you are, and show some appreciation for what you have and where you are, right now! Some situations may seem more challenging than others to practice this, but trust me, you can find something awesome to appreciate in any given moment…. if you put your mind to it.

So what does this have to do with training my dog?

It has to do with remembering to appreciate the improvements you and your dog are making as you go through the training process. You see yourself and your dog every day so you don’t always notice the changes. Whether it’s the size of a growing puppy or the improved behavior of a nervous dog, gradual changes tend to be less noticeable to those closest to them. Sometimes massive changes seem to go unnoticed by a client and I have to remind them about their first day and the progress they’ve made in just one week. (I should start videotaping these classes so I can remind people how far they have come).  

Question: Do you know the best way to raise a criminal? Answer: Only give a child attention when they are doing something wrong.

Like a sore toe or labored breathing we sometimes don’t notice things until they are bothering us. Unfortunately this can include our dogs. This can lead to a host of behavior problems with the dog as well as create a stressed-out human. Much like children, a dog will sometimes opt for getting yelled at over being ignored. Hey, attention is attention! Yelling at a dog only causes frustration in us and makes us appear emotional and unstable. Dogs do not respond well to unstable, frustrated leaders. If we can remember to notice and appreciate their improvements as well as assume our own responsibility for any shortcomings, everyone will thrive.

If we pay attention, we might notice that our jumping kangaroo-dog was actually sitting politely for several seconds before jumping to get our attention but we failed to recognize it and reward them. Even though our dog may have acted up in some way at class, we may need to take into account  that he didn’t get his walk today or that his behavior has improved over last week.

There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting more and “raising the bar”.  Having a good attitude while appreciating improvements (big or small) keeps our energy more stable, which dogs respond well to. We would do ourselves and our dogs a huge favor by showing some appreciation for how far we have come as we continue to move forward.

Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals

Copyright 2005-2013 Chad Culp, Thriving Canine. All rights reserved.