Monday, January 25, 2010

Nothing in Life is Free

Another principle of dog training is that nothing in life is free. In order to play, to get a treat, to get a pat, or to eat the dog must do something positive. In essence, the playing, the treat, the pat and the food are the reward. The dog should never be given anything 'enjoyable' without doing something to earn it.

The theologian in me has trouble with this principle. It is fundamental to my belief system that God's grace and love are free gifts that I cannot ~ in any way ~ earn. I understand the reasoning behind this principle. If the dog gets his food, his pleasure, his love without having to earn it he will lose his motivation to be good and to do good for his master.

Yet, I wonder, without a sense of unconditional love, doesn't life become a simple transaction? I think dogs are more complicated than that. My love for Bady goes beyond whether he can down, sit and shake before he gets his food and I'm pretty sure he knows that. But I go through the motions any way to keep Bady sharp and focused.. I admit, though, that he does occasionally get a pat on the head or a 'scritch' between the ears.... just because.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Principles of Dog Training

In the course of our training, I've picked up a few helpful hints to guide Bady and I along the way. They seem like common sense, for the most part, but it is important to be reminded. It is easy to forget when caught up in the heat of the moment!

~ Don't get frustrated.
~ Be consistent.
~ Don't reward bad behavior.
~ In the face of bad behavior, say no in a consistent, firm tone.
~ The higher the distraction, the less learning takes place
~ Live in the moment.

I wonder if these principles could be applied to other areas of life?? Church life, maybe? :>)

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Like much of the rest of the country, we've been hit by winter in a big way! Last weekend's storm dropped nearly 3 feet of the white stuff on us. The funny thing was that the heaviest snow was localized over our town (or perhaps our house!). Parishioners of ours in outlying towns only got 5-15 inches!

I have been getting out to church and shop and meetings... but when I'm home there is a sense of hibernating ~ snuggling in, resting for spring ~ amid all this snow! It also makes me reflective on the year past and the year ahead.

2009 was a busy one for the Atwoods.... moving, of course, being the main focus. 2010 will take on a different tone as we get our bearings and settle into our life in calling here in Vermont. (And hopefully find a local job for Gary!) The New Year will also be shaped by my father's recent diagnosis of ALS. This will be a year of learning to live with joy within the limitations of this degenerative disease.

Gary and I also have a new vision we are just beginning to explore, which we hope to grow in some small way 2010. We have both lived with my PTSD and seen the blessings and healing Bady has brought to my (and our) life over the past year and a half. Now we are beginning to wonder how we can bring education and resources to other women trauma survivors who would benefit from a working dog. We are not sure how this might happen, but we are open to researching and brainstorming this idea however the Spirit may move us.

I pray that 2010 may be a year of blessing.... And now it's time to get out of the house to see what this snowy, cold day may bring!