Problem Definition: A Choice

Dogs are such great instructors.

Last night I trained Claire for a bit, and that involved a bit of happy obedience exercises interspersed with retrieves and tug games and so on.

CLaire playing Aug 2019.jpg

By the end, Claire was hot — and I was inattentive.

As we walked back to the house, she made a beeline for a dirty, stagnant pool of water. I saw this coming but it was too late — water is a siren song to Claire and she was in it before I could finish “%$# Claire#$%$ here!!!”


There is nothing like a huge, stinky, muddy, wet dog right before bedtime.

This happens often enough that Claire knew just what to do next — she hopped right in the booster bath.

I am reminded that the definition of a problem is a choice. Further, how we define — or think about — a problem directs our feelings and the solutions we view as reasonable.

I had an initial burst of anger as Claire raced off to wallow, which I promptly recognized as a reaction to a dog not meeting MY expectations. Since I think it is not productive or reasonable to be mad at humans or animals for failing to meet our needs/expectations, I had moved beyond anger by the time Claire had finished her mud bath — and into chagrin.

WHEN will I learn to put Claire on leash between the training yard and the house?!

This is where problem definition points to solutions.

If I believe the problem is that Claire is naughty, I blame her — she is responsible for this unfortunate habit of pretending to be a giant, furry pig in the most disgusting of mud holes. That, my friends, is a cop out. Blame hands over control on a silver platter — it is a pattern of thinking that promotes negative feelings and helplessness.

My dog is NOT naughty — she is just muddy. Well, not any more since I gave her a bath.

Claire wet August 2019.jpg

Anyway, I view the problem as this — Claire’s ability to think/respond explodes in the presence of water, no matter how shallow or disgusting. Given that, I have come to two conclusions.

First, she must be on leash if there is water in the vicinity and I prefer she not have a Pool Party. In other words, my solution is to prevent the unfortunate behavior.

Second, water will be an excellent thing to “proof” her training. In other words, I can use water to train Claire to ignore distractions when working!! If she can ignore water, she can ignore anything.

I have already started this — at the moment, Claire is heeling well while ignoring the Pacific Ocean! Yay Claire. Yes, the Pacific Ocean is about 500 miles away but at this point in her training, that is about the distance required to keep Claire out of water.

Muddy Claire.jpg