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Dog Training Hacks

“Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”
― Robert Heinlein

It's Saturday night. I have my blog post due Sunday morning (hopefully you are reading this whilst still in your pajamas having a second cup of coffee at home rather than at the office on Monday). The thing is, though, at almost 45 years old, I know myself well enough to know how I work the most efficiently. Or as I like to think of it, optimized laziness. Procrastination is not a vulgar thing, and I firmly believe that a life procrastinating on procrastinating is truly wasted.

In other words, I don't have less work or responsibilities than anyone else, I'm just exceptionally efficient, and will not do things because they've always been done that way. I choose to tackle problems, deadlines and tasks in a way that makes sense, and that is to have a comfortable working knowledge of the tools you have to hit your goals.

Case in point: blog post that needs to be published in 10 hours. I haven't even thought of a topic yet (still not sure what the post will be about). Now, most people would be panicking, scrambling to put something on paper. That is silly and inefficient (at least for me). I personally work better under pressure. The closer I am to a deadline, or the more under stress I am, the better I perform. Am I a stress junkie? Absolutely not. I just know the fastest way to get me motivated is to wait until the last moment.

I categorize people in various shades of gray between two black and white personality traits. I call them the Farmers and the Hunter Gatherers. The Farmers tend to work better with a day that is neatly carved up into little tasks. At 6 we milk the cows. At 7 all the animals are fed. Between 8-9 we eat breakfast.

A cyclitic rhythm that encompasses not only the day, but the season as well. A season for everything. Think of these people as what might be traditionally called Type A personalities.

And that's fine and necessary for some people. They find calm in the orderly. But I'm not into calm. I'm into peace, and bursts of intense activity followed by longer periods of inactivity work best for me. Good enough is good enough, and sometimes even better. I don't have a specific time for anything, but I do have a sense of how I feel at specific moment. In other words, if 6:00 has rolled around and I still haven't come up with a blog, I don't panic. I'm more intuitive than that. I have a greater sense for how I'm feeling, and I'm not going to choke some limp, pathetic post just because it's 6:00 and come hell or high water, a blog post must be written.

Again, the Hunter Gatherer style simply works for me. It also works with my dogs.

Know Your Motivator

Case in point: cleaning my house. I know I won't do it unless I'm energized somehow. But, as Newton said, objects in motion stay in motion. Unfortunately for me, once I'm feeling lazy or procrastinating, I tend to remain motionless. The problem is getting me started. So guilting myself doesn't work (who wants to be made to feel guilty, anyway?!). Neither does the "promise" know, promising yourself if you clean for X amount of time, you'll reward yourself with Y. Nope. Never worked on me. But what does motivate me?

Anger. Frustration.

So if I need to clean the house, or get some tedious chore done, I simply make my kids play video games with me. I suck at video games, especially Mario Kart. I constantly come in last place, despite always trying my hardest. By the time we finish a round, and I'm fuming. And ready to rage clean.

So how does this apply to my dog? Easy. I'm not usually motivated to walk Orion after dinner. If I'm in sessions all day, I literally have no other time to do it, and he needs his walk, so I need to find out what motivates me. Turns out that would be teaching him a trick, or running through the tricks we already know. In essence I am bonding with him through play. That usually energizes me enough to take him for a walk. I know my motivator. Orion merely needs to hear the word "walk" and he's already motivated.

So ask yourself, are you motivated? If not, find out what does motivate you. Take the time to learn more about how you are, and how you motivate yourself into efficiency.

Constantly Look for Good Shortcuts

Note the emphasis on "good". A good shortcut is quicker, healthier, or leads you to a better state of mind, and may not necessarily be easier or faster. A good example: exercise.

We all know our dogs need it, as do we, be we don't think to optimize our lazy when confronted with exercise and activity, even though this is a great example of optimizing lazy. I have a two pronged approach to this for myself. I know I need to work out my arms a lot more; my legs are strong, but my arms are pretty flabby. The obvious, tried and true choice would be weight lifting.

I'd rather eat spiders, thankyouverymuch.

Weightlifting would be the most efficient if I want to be quick, but something you don't stick to will never be optimized lazy. So my answer is to do most chores by hand. I knead and and bake my own bread (go ahead...knead some bread and tell my your arms aren't tired afterwards). I frequently sweep the floor instead of running a vacuum. The beauty is, I'm still getting work done that needs to be done (albeit, at a slower pace), but I'm getting a bit of exercise, too. And at the end of the day, it really doesn't take me much longer than actually lifting weights.

You can optimize lazy for your dog's exercise, too.

Rather than breaking down the mental work and physical activity your dog requires into two separate categories, put them together. Use an enrichment feeder for your dog's meals, but pick one that they have to chase around, rather than a stationary one. This is my current favorite. At the end of the day, it's not a tremendous amount of exercise, but it is something to take the edge off your dog, especially when you're still trying to build up enough motivation to take your dog for a walk. It's easy to be motivated to walk a dog who's a little bit worn out than a dog who is fresh out the starting gate.

Bonus tip: Start the walk inside the house. Do some laps around the room, or around the whole house, gradually building up the level of stimuli you may have to Pilot your dog through, rather than hitting it all at once. Learn how to walk your dog more efficiently in this post.

And then my absolute favorite way to exercise your dog: a backpack. My two favorites are Kurgo and Outwards Hound. Learn more about the backpack here.

The Biggest Dog Hack: The PAW Method

Keeping it simple is the best thing you can do to optimize efficiency with your dog. You can read all about the PAW Method here, but let's do a quick rundown of what it is, and why it's so efficient.

P.A.W = Piloting, Activity and Work.

Just these three things is all you need to get the best out of your bond with your dog. It's a recipe with only three ingredients. Simple, but don't leave anything out, or it won't work!

Activity. Think of Activity as exercise. Your dog needs an adequate amount, or they turn into little demons. Remember, be lazy about the activity.

Backpacks, treadmill training, agility, fetch, flirt poles (no, really that's what they're called - just don't Google it at work). Come up with the regime that works for your personal brand of crazy.

Work. Work is simply mental work. How did you mentally exhaust your dog today? Enrichment feeders, games, tricks, scent detection, agility (yes, it's mental and physical activity). Those are all good ways to wear out your dog.

Piloting Piloting is the nuanced one. Think of Piloting almost like Parenting. It's answering a lot of questions. You are simply here to answer their questions. Quick start: everything is yes or no. No maybe, no diatribe answers, just a simple yes or no. Learn how to do it here.

Just remember, there are two times we give a dog a negative.

1. When you don't like what your dog is doing, i.e., barking, digging holes, etc.;

2. When your dog is acting like an asshat and doing what I call the "Yo Bitch". It’s the human equivalent of saying, “Yo, Bitch, gimme a cookie.” Or “Yo, Bitch, that’s my chair”. Vulgar? Absolutely. Acceptable? Never. You wouldn’t accept a human addressing you like that, so don’t accept that from a dog. Dog’s are perfectly capable of using polite, “May-I-Please” body language. Start to demand respectful dialog at all times.

Remember, negatives are answers, not pain. If your dog is ever too afraid of asking a question because of your potential response, you're a jerk. In other words, no shock collars, no yelling, no hitting and no prong collars. We're are focusing on answering your dog's questions, not making them afraid to ask them.

There are 3 times we give a dog a positive:

  1. The "come" command.

  2. Asking a dog to be human (such as doing tricks, learning sit, stay, come, or any other things one dog wouldn't expect another dog to do.

  3. When they are calm(er).

Easy enough.

Now let's get to the hack of the PAW Method, but especially the Piloting part. You've got your whole world of questions that your dog is going to ask you, and you only have two answers, and a breakdown of when you do what. So let's talk scenarios.

Dog: Can I steal your food?

Answer: No (clause 1 - don't like that behavior, and clause 2 - YO BITCH). No algorithms to come up with. No grand mathematical schemes. You've got your answer, now give it.

Dog: Can I hump your leg?

Answer: No because...I mean really, do I even have to say it?!

Dog: May I please come up on the couch?

Answer: Well, you decide. He's definitely is being polite; no Yo Bitch. But maybe you don't want him up there, in which case, simply answer him with a (calm gentle) negative; or

give him a positive for being calm, and then choose to allow him up on the couch.


Answer: Uh, yes. Dogs don't teach other dogs to do this, so you *need* to give him a positive, as he's learning a trick.

Dog: Can I lick your eyeball?

Answer: I'd give him a negative, because he's Yo Bitching you, and I don't like eyeball licking. However, you do you. I'm not here to kink shame.

So the biggest hack here is learning how to bust down communication to it's simplest form: yes and no, and then learning when you give each. And here's the real beauty of this: you don't have to answer every question. You'll go insane if you try. Simply answer as many as you reasonably can (but paying special attention to negating the really important, or dangerous questions, such as, "Can I bite the mailman?", or "Can I join Q-Anon?",

but for the most part, we are looking for progress, not perfection. As I tell my clients: stop trying to be perfect so you can be good.

And here we are at 10:33 pm., I have a blog post due tomorrow with no potential topics in mind, so I'm going to just sit here and optimize my laziness.

Keep Calm and Pilot On

Kerry Stack Darwin Dogs

Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio


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