Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From My Husky
As a new dog owner I probably should have purchased a Lab or Golden Retriever. I should have looked for a dog that was passive and eager to please, instead, I fell in love with a little fur ball who had more personality than most humans I've encountered.
From the first time I met little Niko I could tell that he was hyper-intelligent. He looked me in the eye and seemed to understand my moods and words...it was bizarre. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not under some assumption that I have a dog who can understand human conversations...but the boy IS smart!
I didn't realize that smart equaled trouble until it came to training Niko. As a puppy, he was very food motivated so I was constantly doing his training with treats to coax him into doing what I wanted.... I quickly realized that once he learned a command, he became uninterested... Treats weren't working anymore.
After doing some research I learned that Huskies are different from most all other dog breeds. They don't seek to please their master, they don't easily obey and they have a mind of their own. At first, it made me nervous about what kind of dog Niko would be....but I soon realized that in order to make him obey me, he had to respect me.
And so it began (Now, if this were a movie, I would want there to be a training montage with Aretha Franklin's "Respect" playing in the background so just keep that in mind). Gaining his respect took a lot of time and consistency and an abundance of patience. But before I could ask him to obey me, I had to walk the walk. I started to make sure that he always followed me if I went through a door way. If it was dinnertime, we always ate first, Niko ate second (apparently that's a big deal in the dog world). I also had to be careful about how I reprimanded him - he needed to be corrected and then redirected. For instance, if he was jumping on me, instead of just saying "No", it had to be "No, Sit.". This gave him something to do instead of jumping. In just a matter of weeks I saw a huge change in him. He followed me everywhere and seemed to look at me whenever he was considering doing something bad....he respected me. SUCCESS!!!!! Well, kind of.
What's in it for me?
Recently, I was at a dog park with a fellow Husky owner. I always love meeting other owners because you can share stories and ideas for this smart and mischievous breed. As we talked our Huskies frolicked together in all of their furry glory and before I knew it, it was time to go. Before I call to Niko I tell my fellow owner that trying to get him to come back while we're at the dog park is similar to conducting a hostage negotiation. All of the training, respect, progress completely goes out of the window when he is engaged with other dogs. This is where I learned the first rule of negotiating - there has to be something in it for both parties.
For me, I want my pup to come, let me leash him up and to get into the car so that we can head home. He, on the other hand, wants to stay and play with his new friends... So how do we negotiate something that works for us both? By going on a walk! The only thing Niko loves more than the dog park is going for a walk. So now, to avoid the embarrassing scene at the dog park, I'll call him over to go for a walk. The first time I tried it, he stood five feet from me and you could see that he was weighing his options. He was actually thinking it over. Now, since he knows I'm true to my word, he'll trot right over and will let me hook him up. We go for a fifteen minute walk and everybody wins!
What I Have Learned
Over the last year as Niko has grown and I've learned more and more about training him and creating good habits for myself I realize that these skills have carried over into my everyday life. I have learned to be patient with Niko even when he does things that infuriate me... This has tremendously helped me in my personal and professional life. I have learned to look at things and say, "Is it really that serious or important? Should I really get upset about this?", and it has reshaped how I interact with people.
As most dog owners know, it's extremely important to have a schedule and routine for your pup. This keeps them centered and more well-behaved but it takes discipline to stick to a schedule. In this area I have improved the most. I have learned to make a plan, stick to it and have the discipline to carry out my plans even when I don't want to. As a result, I have lost weight, become more productive and am happier with myself. Who knew that owning a mischievous little fur ball could create so many positive changes!
If you are in the market for a puppy and aren't sure, do your research! I try to keep it real here so I definitely share the good and the bad, but I wouldn't change my decision to bring Niko home for anything. He's always a work in progress but aren't we all?