Positive Dog Training Mantra: I Think I Can


Mr. N’s tag reads: I think I can. After the little engine that could. It’s a perfect mantra for him. He’s the little off-breed underdog who people don’t take seriously. That’s also the training mantra that I follow. I think he can do anything he wants to! Or anything I ask him to do that he is physically and mentally capable of doing. He steadfastly is against the idea of bite sports and dock diving. He can’t fathom the idea of biting anyone voluntarily and he doesn’t understand the concept of volunteering to get wet.

Mr. N doesn’t let his size or breed stop him from doing anything he wants to do. So I don’t let his size or breed limit him from doing things either! As a terrier, he will find a way. If he can’t go under, he’ll go over and if he can’t go over, he’ll go around. Training is much the same. If one way doesn’t work, try another. And then another.


Terriers are not known for their biddability or recall. I was never really worried that Mr. N would run away but he would get distracted by other people or dogs or squirrels and not come straight away when I called him. Well now I can call him away from another dog mid-chase and the majority of the time, he’ll ignore squirrels and rabbits and come running.

Unicorn Tricks

Unicorn tricks are those elusive tricks that your dog has trouble with that you mostly despair of ever achieving. For a while, ours was fetch. Mr. N is the least mouthy dog ever. I tried luring, briefly considered the 29-step method using shaping and then finally taught him fetch using a . Now he will fetch most things he can fit in his mouth (still does not like metal) and can even clean up his own and put them in the .

Speak was another. I tried toys and dangling in front of him but not giving them to him, fake knocking on the door, animal noises on Youtube and half a dozen other ways to try to get him to bark on cue. It took a while but now he has a cartoon dog bark that he will do when prompted.

Lure Coursing

People view him skeptically at the lure coursing fields and often look behind me for my “real dog” that will be running on the field. Mr. N proves the naysayers all wrong by constantly following the lure with great vim and with speed. He adores the sport. So what if he’s not a sighthound or purebred or bigger than a rabbit? He has his first title and is working on his second.

The Future

We continue working on our 2018 goals which include various tricks and behavioral modification and titles. Mr. N knocked out another unicorn trick recently which was a handstand so now we move on forward to a walking handstand. One of our big objectives for this year is working on his first obedience title which is going to tax me organizationally. My usual method of choosing something to train is what looks cute? Let’s train that. It’s all a game to him.

I have faith in him that one day he will be able to walk calmly past other dogs on the sidewalk without having to exercise him for two hours off-leash first.

I think he can do anything.

What is your dog training mantra?





14 Responses

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      March 7, 2018 8:50 pm

      He doesn’t do it all the time because it takes more time for me to direct him lol but we have cleaning sessions every now and then where he “helps.” He can also put things in teeny tiny trash cans.

  1. Jan K

    March 7, 2018 11:19 am

    I believe both you and Mr. N can do anything you set your minds to! It’s a great way to think and to approach any new trick or sport.

  2. Jana Rade

    March 7, 2018 4:05 pm

    State of mind absolutely makes an enormous difference between accomplishing something or not. There is another one I like, taken from my hubby who also did some defensive driving – “look where you want to go.”

  3. sadieandco

    March 8, 2018 10:18 am

    That is a great mantra for Mr. N. Well done on accomplishing the handstand. We look forward to hearing about upcoming goals. In the meantime, we’ll have to come up with at least one mantra for our pack!

  4. Pamela

    March 11, 2018 6:25 pm

    I know some boat terriers whose people need the mantra “I think I can.” They have smart energetic dogs who are capable of many of the things you and Mr N have accomplished. But because their dogs are small, they don’t feel the need to invest time in training.

    It’s a shame. Because they have no idea how much fun they are missing out on.

  5. Beth

    March 12, 2018 5:31 am

    I can’t wait to see how Mr. N does with his training goals! I love hearing the stories of him setting his mind to something, so I know that you’re both on the right path to lots of success with them!

  6. Sally Hummel

    March 15, 2018 1:54 pm

    I love this idea of looking past perceived limitations to go for it! So proud of the success you’ve had with Mr. N, and can’t wait to see your next triumph!!


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