A few months ago my wife pointed out that I have been able to teach myself practically anything with a dogged stubbornness and determination so it didn’t make much sense that I would run into something I’m not naturally inclined to do well and just throw up my hands and say “that’s not for me.”
While I’m used to being right basically all the time, I was wrong this time and she was right (I’m sure she will be happy to have that in writing).
Since that conversation I haven’t gotten worlds better at fixing things, but I’ve changed my mindset. I’ve taken responsibility. That little change has changed everything.
I did a little bit of troubleshooting on the web, applied what I know from watching contractors, put my boy in the car and we went to ACE hardware to get everything I needed to unfreeze my pipes.
Installing heat tape in my basement, insulating my pipes, and moving around space heaters may not sound like a monumental, Herculean feat if you are handy or mechanically inclined, but for me it was a triumphant re-birth. I’m now a man who when stuff goes wrong in my house, I just handle it. I may never build buildings, or redo an entire room in my house, but who knows at this point.
Now as a dog trainer, I understand that the people I work with may never be dog trainers nor will they ever want to be dog trainers. In fact, most people don’t think they have any time or bandwidth to devote to their owns dogs. Like how I thought about handy work, they think dogs aren’t “their thing” which means business is good for dog trainers. Just like plumbers, we make our money when people look at simple tasks as overwhelming.
You should see the looks I get when I tell people they need to walk their dogs twice a day for 45 minutes each. While this might seem like a big jump in time to what you are doing with your dog now, this is not a lot of time for your dog. After all, what are your dogs doing for the other 22.5 hours in the day? Sitting there? Waiting for the next walk? Watching you watch TV?
What I’ve learned is that when you have a house you have a responsibility to take care of it’s basic needs. You can’t call a professional all the time to change lightbulbs and your air filter and all the other basic things. Well – really wealthy people can, but I will also tell you that really wealthy people are often the people who struggle the most with dogs since they are so used to delegating and being masters of their one or two things. Remember, Cesar Millan got famous primarily because people like Oprah couldn’t control their dogs despite the fact that she was able to build a media empire. Likewise, even the best dog trainer in the world can’t make your life with your dog harmonious without you dedicating yourself to your dog at least just a little bit more.
The other, perhaps more important thing I’ve learned rom this self-challenge, is that merely improving at something you weren’t good at is a feeling that’s hard to buy. While our society rewards those with a singular purpose – after all, if you know anything about people who are extremely wealthy or successful in their field, they’ve often dedicated every waking moment of their life to that thing even if that means leaving their dogs behind (and maybe their wives, children, friendships etc.) - there is nothing more empowering than taking it upon yourself to get a little bit better at something you thought you were incapable of doing or shore up an area where you are weak. Especially if it’s your dog and you’re it’s only hope to be happy! And trust me: your first perfect walk with your dog will feel like flying.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s a time to work with experts. But if you hire me to work with your dog, absorb everything you can from working with me. If you hire a plumber to fix your toilet, watch what they do so maybe you don’t have to call them next time the same problem happens. Ask questions. This is how you get a little bit better at something that might not be “your thing” naturally.
So take an honest look at you and your dog. Are you taking ownership of his well-being? Are you doing your best to raise him to be a mature, successful dog? If you are, as many of my readers are, then great! If not, what changes can you make today to start feeling progress and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I thawed my pipes?
Remember, if you want your dog to get better, the best way is for YOU to get better with your dog.
If you and your dog are already perfect, you can always try home handy work!