Have you ever trained a puppy?

On and off, since I was six years old, dogs have been part of my life. Picking a favorite would be impossible, as each has a special place in my heart. If my family and I were giving out prizes, however, our current best friend would win for being the most intelligent. Not surprisingly, he is also the most challenging.

Therefore, he and I have recently returned to an expert trainer for a refresher course to help me help him master an important command:

Leave it!

The principle of leave it applies to countless situations, but in simple terms, the message is not to get involved with whatever it is.

The problematic it for my little guy pertains to other dogs. On that note, just between you and me, I made up song that I sing for him—while we’re walking along a park trail and no one else is in earshot—about “leave-its,” meaning all the canines he’ll encounter and not engage.

If left to his own devices, my 17-pounder, who probably sees a mastiff when he looks in the mirror, would begin making noises at the approach of any dog and continue mouthing off until that animal was out of sight. Besides the nuisance factor of excessive, loud barking, such interactions could present all sorts of potential risks for the two of us and any other dogs or people involved.

As a result, I’ve been holding him back, redirecting his attention, telling him to “leave it,” and praising his success. Amusingly, dog owners who are accustomed to seeing us have noticed how much less reactive he is, and they are now joining me in saying, “Good boy!” Accordingly, our trainer (as my dog and I are both learning) recently presented another lesson for us to practice, taking him a step closer to self-control.

Ultimately, I will not have to hold him back when dogs come towards us. Calmer and more confident in himself, he won’t need to impress anyone with his bark. He could very well remain picky in choosing his friends, and who could blame him, but instead of initiating an argument, he’ll make his mark (when and where it is appropriate) while minding his own business.

Working with my dog has prompted me to contemplate the fact that a human’s ability to leave it—e.g., not always vying to be heard or striving to have the last word—demonstrates self-discipline.

Empowered with that trait, aren’t we more inclined to listen and learn, and put our words to better use?

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

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