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The Power of Acknowledgment

September 27, 2016  | 

{3:42 minutes to read} Dog training was never a strong suit for my husband or me, but our new dog, Toby, proved to be in desperate need of some consistent direction and attention. We hired a trainer to come to the house. I also dug out all of our training books and searched online for new techniques when some of the things we were doing didn’t seem to suit Toby or me.

One of the biggest challenges was walking him. We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood, but any sound, a car or, heaven forbid, child on a tricycle, made Toby so skittish. Once he got past his zone of comfort (two houses down the block), he began to pull back toward home and would bark like crazy at pretty much everything.

I was told that walking with a halter harness around his nose would help keep him calm and at my side, but he hated it so much that I couldn’t use it. He continued to pull and not stay along my left side, as I had been instructed was the proper way to walk a dog.

Finally, I came upon a website that resounded for me (and ultimately Toby). It provided that if your dog doesn’t like walking, maybe it’s because it isn’t fun for him. It suggested that unless you are entering a dog show, let your dog wander, run and sniff as he wants, and use constant treats and praise to acknowledge his doing a good job for literally everything he does correctly.

So, armed with tiny dog treats, we set out. As soon as we reached the end of his comfort zone, I encouraged him with a treat and praised him, letting him walk wherever he wanted. He did a little run on the grass alongside me and got another treat and praise. When he got scared and barked or if he pulled me, I stopped; and when he calmed down, I gave another treat and praise, and so it went. Little by little, he began walking with me like the other people walking with their dogs that I always envied. And he enjoyed it.

The treats have stopped, but he continues to receive an energetic "good boy” in acknowledgment of everything he does correctly.

Acknowledgment works with people, too. Think about the smile that comes to someone’s face when you tell them they did a good job and that you appreciate their efforts.

I see it with my clients as well. In the midst of a contentious mediation, there is nothing more striking than when a client says with sincerity, “He is a good father,” or “We’ve been able to save so much because she is so on top of our finances.”

We all want to be acknowledged for our efforts. It makes a powerful difference to the person hearing it, especially when an acknowledgment arises in the face of conflict.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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