Give yourself a break

There is so much pressure on people to do more, to have more and for “more” to be an ongoing theme in life. Since there is always more to have and more to do, I believe that many people go through life accompanied by a nagging feeling that they are never quite good enough.

I would argue that actually little things often are enough – particularly if they become a habit. I spent years writing my book Canine Aggression – it went on and on. I would mention it to my friends and say that it was progressing slowly. The reason it took so long was that in order to write it, I had to relive some of the worst times in my life. I had to do that repeatedly as I reviewed and edited what I'd written. Sometimes periods of months would go by when I wouldn't write at all because it felt too hard. I didn't try to guilt myself into writing during those times, I just did other things and waited until I felt a little stronger and then I'd do a bit of writing. The book stayed there, waiting and I maintained a habit of working on it whenever I could. The time passed and all of those small amounts of time I spent writing added up until the book was complete. I'm really proud of that book and especially happy that it got written and is out in the world for other people to read. My habit of just writing a bit when I could was enough in the end.

I think that it's the same when working with our dogs. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by dogs who are not easy or to feel as if there is so much to learn that it's impossible. The same process gives good results. Do what you can in little chunks. Make a habit of just doing that. Little bits when you can. I promise that it makes all the difference. Days when you are tired or busy and all you can do is take your dog for a little walk somewhere quiet, feed them and give them some affection are fine. Dogs like a break as much as we do.

The other way to look at this is that often our ability to think clearly and come up with solutions is helped by a break. When I was a new programmer – in the days before I had dogs - I once worked on a project for about a year where we worked really hard. We were in the office by 8 every morning, still there at 8pm - and sometimes after 11 at night. We worked at the weekends too. By the end of it, we were all extremely tired and suffering from a variety of health complaints. I know that I did not do my best work on that project. I was too tired and not having enough of a break from it to work effectively. I'm older now and have learned the benefit of a break. Now if I'm dealing with something difficult – and especially if I don't know exactly what to do next – I'll leave work at the time I usually would and will just do other things until the next day. Most of the time, when I'm walking the dogs or cooking dinner or waking up in the morning, I have a new idea about something to try to resolve the issue.

The same thing happens with dogs and learning. Often a break lets them be better able to understand the next time. Taking things easy really can make all the difference.

As the last thing I'll say on taking breaks and doing things in small chunks, I thought I'd share this article about the British Philosopher, Bertrand Russell's famous essay In Praise of Idleness

More Praise for Idleness

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Tracey McLennan

Tracey is the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. She has an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, is a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and is an ACE Advanced Tutor.

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