Train your dog in 30 seconds

Can this possibly be true? Yes, there are all kinds of things you can usefully do with your dog in 30 seconds.

What’s the snag? Well, just like those fitness plans that promise you can get fit in 30 seconds, I’m not talking about just one period of 30 seconds. You need consistency and repeated instances of 30 seconds. Unlike interval training, you won’t need recovery time after the 30 seconds and you don’t need another 30 seconds straightaway. Each 30 seconds is easy and fitted into your day whenever you have a moment.

Stopwatch

Attribution: Wouterhagens (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ll tell you about some of the things my bipeds did with me in 30 seconds. They would often ask me to “sit” – I’ve explained in “A sit in time saves nine” that this is one of their favourite requests and that they brainwashed me into sitting almost automatically. Well, this is how they did it – 30 seconds here, there and everywhere to request a “sit” and now my bottom parks itself as soon as they say “sit”!

They sometimes asked me to “stand”, or do a “down”, even a very brief “stay”. Sometimes they would just quickly look in one of my ears and give me a treat. At other times they would check one of my paws and give me a treat.

I love being brushed now, but I had a phase as an adolescent when I hated it! They would often come up to me and briefly brush my tail or the backs of my legs, those were the parts I most disliked being brushed, and then they gave me a treat.

Dog biscuit

Another thing my bipeds would do is give me a treat, or just tell me I was being good, when I was settled down quietly. This doesn’t sound like training at all, but it is giving positive reinforcement to a desired behaviour. Even now I’m grown up and know how to behave, I love hearing that I’m good! And I’m pleased to say that they’re still in the habit of telling me so frequently – bless their little cotton socks!

See you next Wednesday!

Tips for training bipeds

These tips are written for puppies, but I think they can be adapted for general use by any quadrupeds wishing to train a biped. I’ve based them on my own experiences of the things that have worked for me.

The first time that a biped offers you a treat in return for doing something, you may be tempted to refuse if the treat isn’t particularly interesting. I think it’s worth accepting the treat to show that you are open to negotiation, as bipeds tend to decide you don’t understand if you refuse. It’s important to get them used to the idea of giving you rewards for doing little things for them. There will be ample opportunities for negotiating a better deal once they are accustomed to the idea.

Dog biscuit

You need to be patient and spend the first few weeks showing them how clever and adaptable you are. They will probably concentrate on asking for fairly easy things from you during this time. It’s simple to trade a sit for a treat and you need them to become comfortable with this before forcing them to think harder.

You may get taken to a puppy training class, or somewhere else with lots of people and distractions. This is an excellent time to make it clear that you are not satisfied with the treats they are using. Showing no interest whatsoever in the treat they are offering works reasonably well, but if you take the treat and then spit it out it gives a little more emphasis to the point you are making. It also gives them time to think about their shortcomings while they clean it up. I have seen the cats pretend that they are going to vomit when offered something they don’t like – this is very effective, but loses its dramatic effect if you do it too often!

Bone-shaped dog biscuits, treats

Tasty!

You should find that the quality of the treats goes up after this and you should show your appreciation by responding to their requests, but don’t let them get too complacent! It’s wise to reject the treats again after another week or so, this will make them offer you something even better. You can keep doing this to see what variations they will provide and then you can decide on your favourite, or you can decide you like them to keep varying the treats.

Bipeds have a tendency to get fixated on one thing that they wish to do well, such as giving you a treat for a sit. You can show your boredom in a number of ways. Sometimes I have wandered off to do something else until they find something more entertaining to do, sometimes I have flopped down and refused to move. At other times I have pretended I don’t understand the request.

Dog doing a play bow

A perfect demonstration of a play bow
By JorgeAlejanDroo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It can be difficult for bipeds to understand what we want of them, so always try to end a training session on a positive note. You have to try various things to see what works on your bipeds, but you could politely request that they play with you by doing a play bow. If that doesn’t cheer them up then rolling over on your back for your tummy to be rubbed never fails!

See you next Wednesday!

My puppy is a thief!

I am answering a Frequently Barked Question: How do I stop my puppy from stealing things?

I have been told about puppies running away with items of clothing when their bipeds are getting dressed, puppies running off with the remote control when their bipeds want to watch television, puppies unpacking the children’s school bags and puppies taking and chewing shoes – to name but a few things these rascals are getting up to.

Puppies just want to have fun! The idea of ownership is a very human view of things. Your puppy is inviting you to play. If you’ve ever chased after your puppy to get something back then you’ve inadvertently accepted the invitation and rewarded the behaviour. Playing at keeping an item from bipeds is a lot of fun! I love to play this game in the garden where there’s plenty of room to run around, but I only do this with one of my toys when my bipeds have agreed to play. I will explain why I stopped trying to take things from my bipeds.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, puppy with Tibetan Terrier puppy

Puppies just want to have fun!

My bipeds tried to avoid situations where I could take something and they also did training with me so that I would learn not to take things. My bipeds were very tidy when I was young, they put everything, even all their shoes, into cupboards so that I couldn’t often get hold of anything I shouldn’t – I can tell you now that being tidy doesn’t come naturally to them! They also only allowed me in certain rooms – the ones where they weren’t leaving anything interesting for me to get at!

My bipeds ensured that I had plenty of playtime at fairly regular intervals and I had short training sessions. One of the things they taught me was “give it”, which meant that I should exchange whatever I had for something that they were holding to give me. Sometimes I had to think hard about whether I wanted to swap, but they were always offering me something more interesting.

They also taught me “leave it”. They began this by putting a fairly boring treat on the floor and when I went to take it they covered it with a hand. I didn’t try very hard to get it and when I stopped trying I was rewarded with a very tasty treat. When I knew the request to “leave it” they gradually did this with more interesting things, but the reward was always nicer than whatever I was being asked not to touch.

Cartoon of dog raiding rubbish, drinking from toilet etc.

A few examples showing when “leave it” could be useful!
Attribution: By LELE43 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

They also worked with me on sitting when asked. This seemed an easy way to earn a tasty treat, lots of praise, or some playtime with them. We did this so often that “sit” is almost automatic and they use this to their advantage!

With these three requests at their disposal, it was impossible for me to run off with something and have a game. If they saw me about to pick something up they would say, “leave it”. I would get a treat and then be encouraged to play with one of my own toys. If I managed to pick something up before they noticed, they would ask me to “sit”, and then they would approach me and ask me to “give it”. Again, I would be given a treat and encouraged to play with one of my own toys.

I noticed that if I was settled down playing with one of my own toys, they would often give me a treat as they walked past. They would also tell me how pleased they were with me and sometimes they would join in the game with my toy! I gradually gave up trying to get them to play with things like the remote control, as they never joined in. It was more rewarding to play with one of my own toys and if they chose to join in that made it even better!

See you next Wednesday!

A walk on the healthy side

Going for a walk is one of the highlights of my day. Most people know that the exercise is beneficial to dogs and humans, but I think a walk is about so much more than getting some exercise so I’m going to talk about some of the other benefits.

For me, it’s quality time with one, or more, of my bipeds. I don’t have to share them with any of the many tasks that bipeds find to do for most of the day, their focus is on enjoying the time with me. The cats stay at home while we’re out for a walk – I love the cats but it’s lovely to get all the attention from my bipeds for a while! Quality time together improves the bond between dog and humans.

It is mentally stimulating for me to be able to sniff and find out what is going on in the neighbourhood. Humans miss most of the messages left by other dogs and wildlife, which is surprising as the messages are usually left in obvious places – on trees in the countryside and on street lights in urban areas! This means that even a short walk near to home is interesting as I get to know who has been in the area and when they were there.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees strolling in the mountains

I’m just strolling in the mountains – biped in tow

I have my favourite walks – they all include a stream. I love having a splash in cool water and the opportunity to take a drink – it always tastes better than the water my bipeds are carrying. I also enjoy it when we walk somewhere new because it’s an adventure!

When I was younger we always did some training while we were out. It was often things I’d been doing at home in our garden and I was asked to do them while we were out – it’s always much harder when there are distractions! I also encountered all sorts of people and animals while out on my walks as part of my socialisation.

I still get to show off some of my skills, and keep them honed, when we’re out on a walk. People often want to make a fuss of me and I’m always polite. Sometimes they just want to talk to my bipeds and I sit and show how very patient I am.

Most of my walks are in the countryside as that’s what we enjoy the most, but sometimes we go to a busy place where I see lots of traffic and people. I show that I remember to wait at the kerb until my biped says that it’s safe for us to cross. Sometimes someone will touch me unexpectedly and I take it in my stride (pun intended)!

I try to ensure that my bipeds focus on me during a walk, this is because I think it’s a special time for them to relax and forget about all the day to day things that concern them. I also help them to enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as splashing in a muddy puddle or pausing to sniff a wild flower. I’m not sure why they like sniffing flowers when there are always more interesting things to sniff, but they seem to enjoy it and it gives me more time to sniff things that are interesting!

The Cinnamon Trust

I’d like to mention The Cinnamon Trust, a charity based in the UK. They assist the terminally ill and the elderly to look after their pets. They have a network of volunteers who will do things like taking a dog for a regular walk.

Update on Milo

I interviewed Milo when he was a cheeky young pup and I told you that he was accepted for guide dog school. He’s now a working guide dog. Congratulations and very best wishes, Milo!

Milo's tweet about qualifying as a guide dog

See you next Wednesday!

Fee-fi-fo-fum!

The male biped was putting things away in the kitchen and the female biped had gone outside. I decided the cats had the right idea and it was a good time for a nap. As I settled down I noticed that the male biped had left the kitchen and gone upstairs.

I was dozing when the female biped came back in. I heard her say something about spots of blood on the floor. The next thing I knew she was bending down by me checking my face and paws! She seems to think that I sometimes put my nose and paws where they don’t belong, so those are the parts most likely to be hurt. Then she went across to the cats and checked their faces and paws, apparently she doesn’t trust them to keep out of mischief either. Then she picked Mulberry up and checked him all over. Then it was Pippin’s turn.

The biped came back and knelt down by me. It was my turn – again! She took each of my paws and checked between all my toes. She looked at my face and in my ears and even in my mouth at my tongue! She asked me to stand up. I sighed because I wanted to go to sleep and I knew the blood wasn’t mine, but I knew she’d persist so I stood up. She checked me all over. She said that she couldn’t see anything wrong with me. I could have told her that!

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, sleeping

Can’t you read? I was trying to sleep!

She was about to take another look at Mulberry and Pippin when the male biped came downstairs and asked what was going on. She replied that she’d found some blood on the kitchen floor and was trying to find out which of us had a cut. I think she should try using her nose! The giant from “Jack and the Beanstalk” could have sniffed his way to the source of the blood in no time at all!

The male biped said that we were all fine and she should let us take our naps. She replied that one of us must have a cut or graze and she wanted to make sure it was cleaned and we were okay. He stood there with a sheepish expression on his face and held his thumb up to show a new plaster on it. He explained that he’d cut himself while putting things away in the kitchen and had gone up to the bathroom to get a plaster.

The female biped then went to the treat jar and took out a treat for me. She also gave Mulberry and Pippin some cat treats. The male biped wanted to know why he didn’t get a treat when it was him that had the cut! She told him that he was perfectly capable of getting a treat for himself and it was all his fault that she’d been looking for a cut on one of us in the first place! I don’t think she really meant it because a moment later she asked him if he was okay and then made him a mug of tea. He does enjoy a big mug of sweet tea!

See you next Wednesday!