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!

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Lost in translation

I have lived in a number of houses with my bipeds and I’ve stayed with them in quite a few more on holiday. This meant that this time when we moved I knew that the rules stay the same and they’ll use the same old words like “kitchen”, “upstairs” and “garden” to mean completely different places from before. They may have a similar function to the places that were previously called those names, but it seems lazy and quite confusing to use the same words again!

I have noticed that humans think they are very clever at communication – yet they expect animals to learn to understand what they say. We try to understand you and interpret what you say, but I’ll start with a simple example to show you why things sometimes get confusing.

“Sit” is generally the first command that a puppy learns. The usual method is to move a treat above a puppy’s head so that the puppy naturally lowers his haunches to make it easier to raise his head to get the treat. Then the word “sit” is repeated with this action. The biped then usually thinks that the puppy understands that “sit” means the puppy should get into a sitting position, regardless of the location or circumstances.

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty

Attribution: By Tim Dobbelaere from Ieper, Belgium (Man’s best friend) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The puppy, however, probably thinks that “sit” means something like “you are incredibly cute, we are in a safe place, I’m in a good mood, touch the floor with your tail while I give you a treat”. This will often cause confusion if the puppy is lying down and is asked to sit. The puppy doesn’t know what to do – his tail is already on the floor. The biped often does not understand why the puppy is confused – it seems so straightforward to the biped that the puppy should raise his front end.

We have one command that bipeds consider basic and already it means two different things – lower your haunches, or raise your front end – depending on the circumstances. And that’s before the puppy has even left the house! Once we venture out in the world, communication becomes even more complicated. How is a puppy to know that now “sit” means “however excited you are, stop moving around sniffing that wonderful smell you’ve discovered and bend your back legs”?

Sometimes it can mean “stop walking, lower your haunches and wait quietly while I speak to another biped”, or “stop walking, park your bottom on the pavement and wait until I decide to cross the road”. There are almost endless variations. I thought I had discovered them all, when I discovered that it can also mean “stop following those goats and put your bottom on the ground and wait for me to catch up with you”.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that lives with humans who has noticed that they don’t always communicate effectively. Do your bipeds give a command that can mean different things?

See you next Wednesday!

The point of distraction

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: How do I stop my Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, from jumping up?

It’s a fairly common cause of concern amongst people who live with dogs. We dogs tend to be more enthusiastic with our greetings than bipeds are. You only have to watch young dogs at the park greeting each other to realise that dogs don’t mean to be rude when they jump up. Of course, if your dog is as large as I am then convincing the dog that it isn’t very polite can be quite urgent!

My bipeds have used the command ‘sit’ to stop me from doing all sorts of things. They always say that there isn’t much mischief a dog can get into while sitting nicely! They taught me it’s a nice way to greet visitors.

Large dog jumping up

Too enthusiastic?

Attribution: By Rytis Mikelskas (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The first thing to do is to convince your dog that a ‘sit’ always brings good things. Little and often is the way to do this. Ask for a ‘sit’ at odd times and give a treat – this can be something tasty, or it can be praise or perhaps a game. You can also ask your dog to ‘sit’ before you give him his food. When ‘sit’ gets a quick reaction, encourage your dog to stay in that position for a little longer before he is rewarded. Then try asking for a ‘sit’ when there is some sort of distraction, but keep the sit brief at first so that the dog is successful.

When you have a fairly reliable sit, you can move onto the next stage with some help from family members and friends. Ask someone to go out and come back in, but ask the dog to sit before the person comes in. At this stage it’s helpful to stay by your dog’s side so that you can encourage him to remain sitting and reward him for doing so. The person who came in should make a fuss of him if he is sitting.

If you keep doing this it won’t take long for your dog to know that sitting to greet people brings rewards and it will become the natural behaviour. I always use a ‘sit’ when I want to ask for something, as I know how much my bipeds like and reward a ‘sit’.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it is also Hannukah, so I’d like to wish everyone who is celebrating a lovely time!

See you next Wednesday!

Not on my watch!

I’ve told you about some of the things that I did to liven up puppy classes, I don’t know why the trainer called it causing chaos! After I stopped going to puppy classes, we tried several different classes for adult dogs. Most of them were fairly dull, but we found one we enjoyed.

A farmer allowed the trainer to hold classes in one of his barns that he didn’t use very much. There were all kinds of interesting smells and lots of space. After attending the intermediate class for a few months, I joined the advanced class. There were only about a dozen of us. There was one Labrador who was just having fun and spicing up her training like me, the rest of the class were all Border Collies who entered obedience competitions.

This particular week, we were doing our off lead heel work. We all had a turn at using as much of the barn as we wished, while the other bipeds and dogs sat and watched from one end of the barn. When it came to our turn my biped left her bag behind the chair, as she usually did. We moved out into the centre of the barn and my biped asked me to sit and then she removed my lead and draped it round her neck. The trainer then asked us to go through the moves we’d been learning. I watched my biped closely and did everything she asked, I could tell she was really pleased with me.

The trainer said, “Clowie’s working really well with you this week. She’s really giving you her attention. Have some fun together and mix things up, show us what you can do!”

My biped decided to pick up the pace a bit. We started jogging and she kept making sudden changes of direction. I could tell my biped was having fun, so it was a shame when something more important needed my attention. I gave one warning bark and tore off across the barn. I arrived by the chairs and barked twice at Tommy. He immediately started grovelling – he didn’t want any trouble.

Border Collie, black and white

I don’t have a photo of Tommy, but he looks a lot like this dog


Attribution: By Lilly M (za zgodą mojej znajomej – wikipedystki) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The trainer asked, “What was that all about?”

My biped, who was running across the barn in my direction replied that she didn’t know.

Tommy’s biped piped up, “I know! Don’t worry, everything is fine now.”

My biped arrived and clipped the lead to my collar.

Tommy’s biped continued, “Clowie was quite within her rights. I was enjoying watching you working together and I didn’t notice Tommy had slipped his collar. Clowie caught him with his head in your bag! I expect he was after treats. Clowie warned him and he started grovelling. I don’t think he’ll try to take anything from your bag again.”

The trainer said, “Clowie has shown you all how observant a Pyrenean Mountain Dog is. Whatever else she’s doing, her real focus is on protecting her biped and even her belongings!”

It was the end of the evening and everyone wanted to tell me how clever I was to catch Tommy red-pawed. They told my biped how safe they would feel if they knew that I was protecting them. They were impressed that I could do obedience work and still not miss a thing that was happening.

See you next Wednesday!

Fetch – or not

The first time we did fetch at dog training classes, almost all the other dogs ran after their toys and most of them brought them back. When it was our turn my biped waved my toy about and then threw it and said, “Fetch!” I sat and looked at her. She repeated, “Fetch!” I put my head on one side and remained where I was. The trainer soon decided it was the turn of the next dog and my biped had to go and get my toy herself.

My biped asked the trainer for some tips on how to get me to fetch more reliably. She explained that we worked on it at home and that I would sometimes do it, but I’d only ever do it once. You’d think she’d be pleased that I do it at all!

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