What Training My Dog Taught Me About Personal Growth

My partner and I recently rescued a pup from our local shelter. Although he has been a joyful addition to our lives, he has taught us just as much about ourselves as he has taught us about dog training. Mac is a fun loving, sociable dog but he definitely did not get the memo about not talking to strangers.

Most dog training sites suggest that dogs do not respond well to discipline. Instead, dogs learn the best when they are rewarded for good behavior instead of punished for the bad. With these sentiments in mind, dogs, dog-owners, and dog-lovers alike can learn a lot about honing in on lifestyle changes through this positive mindset.

Goal Setting

Instead of training Mac to “not jump on people” when they stop to pet, I had to change my mindset to training him to “sit calmly when introduced to new people”. We can apply this mindset to our goals as well. Often we set goals in relation to what we don’t want to do for example:

  • Stop eating junk food
  • Don’t think negatively
  • Don’t sleep in
  • Stop skipping the gym

Instead, shift your mindset considering what your new behavior looks like to see better results:

  • Eat healthier foods
  • Think positively
  • Set a more established sleep schedule
  • Try finding multiple ways to work out
Photo by Wyatt Ryan on Unsplash


We need to be as patient with ourselves as we are with our pets. When our pet makes progress, we celebrate and reward them! If they’ve been doing great with their house training for weeks, and they have one accident, we consider the accident, and we don’t negate their training! We need to do this with ourselves more. If you have one cheat day, or you miss out on a small part of your goals you should be proud of how far you’ve come instead of getting upset at yourself for a minor setback.

Treat Yo’Self

The same way we give our pets small rewards for their progress, it’s important to reward yourself for your tiny victories. This can be throwing a dance party with yourself to celebrate studying a little longer, or getting your nails done because you’ve slept a full 7-8 hours for two weeks straight. Take yourself out to your favorite place after sticking to your first meal prep.

Find New Avenues

Sometimes your first strategy to training your dog doesn’t work. Maybe he doesn’t like the treats you use, or maybe he’s not registering your words and hand signals. Because your pet is your baby, you try new things until you are both satisfied with the results. Sometimes this is a strategy you have to take with yourself, if at first you don’t succeed at your goals sometimes you have to find a new way to get to the same spot!

Right now, I’m trying to train Mac into grabbing my Amazon packages from the front door and bringing them to me. So far, he can pick up the package in his mouth, and drop it. But we are getting there!

Also published on Medium.