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A few years ago, I visited some friends who lived in Western Michigan. It was summer, so we spent a beautiful day at the beach, hanging out at Lake Michigan. One of my friends brought his dog, and I was amazed at how well behaved the dog was. The dog would run far away on the beach, and my friend could make a brief call and the dog would sprint over to him and immediately sit at his side. The dog didn’t bark, and she could fetch anything, anywhere. The dog could have been on a TV show.

Dog Training 101

I was curious, so I asked my friend how he trained his dog so well. He said one of the keys was that when the dog was a puppy, he was at home all the time working on his dissertation. He said puppies don’t have a very long attention span. So, he would train his dog for about five minutes every hour. It wasn’t a lot of time spent in training, but it was consistent. Five minutes per hour, every single day. Little by little, the dog was trained.

Obedience School

Most people, he said, don’t train their dog like this. They go to work every day, and the dog stays at home. They try to train the dog a little bit in the evening, or maybe take them to obedience school once per week. But puppies don’t have the attention span to focus for an hour at obedience school, so this strategy isn’t very effective. The best way to train a dog is a little at a time. Consistency is key.

Training Yourself

This is not only a great principle when training a dog, but training yourself as well. If you want to improve something, it’s important to start small and stay consistent.

Start Small

First, start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you haven’t run in a year, don’t try to go out and run five miles right off the bat. That’s too much too soon! Start by running for five minutes, and see how that goes. After a week of doing that, increase to six minutes and see how that feels.

Stay Consistent

Second, stay consistent. All changes results from consistent effort expended over a long period of time. No one improves overnight. Try to do at least one thing every day that will move you closer to your goal. Do this for at least six months, and then evaluate your progress.

I don’t have a dog yet, but when I do, I’m going to follow the example of my friend in Michigan. Five minutes of training every hour. And when I want to improve something in my own life, I’m going to engage in a similar process. Start small and stay consistent.

Discussion

What is one thing you are trying to improve? What would it look like to start small? What would it look like to stay consistent in your change effort over a long period of time?

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