Crawling for beginners

Pippin, the cat, still keeps telling me that he isn’t speaking to me after the tale I told recently. I pointed out to him that every time he tells me that, he is in fact speaking to me – he wasn’t amused! He said that I should be doing some crawling if I want to get back into his good books.

I know he meant it in the sense of being extra nice to him and not literally, but it reminded me that I have found it very useful at times to be able to crawl. I’ve already told you about being able to crawl through the dog gates at the side of some stiles.

I’ve been meaning to explain how I learnt to crawl. I said it was quite easy, but when I thought about explaining it I realised that it was only easy once I had the idea that my biped wanted me to shuffle forwards without getting up. It was then a case of doing a tiny bit more each time for the treat, but getting started was a little harder.

My biped asked a trainer for tips on how to teach me to crawl when I was still a puppy. The advice was for her to sit on the floor with her knees raised while I was in the down position.

Stick figure seated on floor

Like this, but both knees raised

She was told to hold a treat under her knees just out of my reach. There were only two problems with this! I was already too large to wriggle under her knees without knocking her over. And it was still tricky to be on the floor with me because I didn’t yet have the good manners that I have now! My biped tried a couple of times, but it was a failure and she decided to wait a while.

We had lots of short training sessions and I learnt lots of new tricks. One of my favourites was taking a treat when told! We also fitted in all the things I found boring, such as the “down” position.

Sphinx of Hetepheres

A sphinx demonstrating the classic “down” position
Attribution: By Jon Bodsworth [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

She would often bend over me and touch my shoulders or my back. If I kept still I would get extra treats, but if I tried to turn it into a game by grabbing her sleeve she would take her arm away and ask me to do something else.

A few months later she did start getting on the floor with me again when I was in the “down” position. She would offer me a treat but it would be just out of reach!

Cartoon dog and bone

Down with a treat just out of reach

My first reaction was to get up to get it, but that wasn’t what she wanted – I didn’t get the treat. She would put her hand on me when she saw me about to get up. We had a number of sessions where I was trying to understand. It can be quite frustrating as a dog when you want that treat and can’t figure out what to do to get it! My biped must have been watching my body language quite carefully because as soon as I started to get frustrated she would ask me to do some easy and fun things – guaranteed treats!

The day I decided to shuffle forwards a fraction to get the treat, I hit the jackpot! After I’d eaten the treat I was given a few more. She told me how clever I was and we had a game of football – that’s my favourite game!

From then on I was keen to shuffle forwards. She gradually expected me to move a little bit farther and added the word “crawl”. It wasn’t long before I could crawl a few feet. She would stand close to me when I was crawling to encourage me. Some dogs may find it intimidating to have someone standing over them and may need to practise together to feel relaxed before trying to learn to crawl.

It isn’t difficult to crawl – the hard part is understanding what the bipeds want, but that is so often the case!

See you next Wednesday!

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!

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!

The calm before the barking storm

I’m going to answer a Frequently Barked Question (FBQ) this week. A few people have asked me the same question: Why doesn’t my Pyrenean Mountain Dog (or Great Pyrenees) bark?

The subject of barking often comes up in connection with Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. At first I was a little surprised to be asked why they are not barking, I’m more often asked how to stop a Great Pyrenees from barking!

In each case, the dog I was asked about is still an adolescent. We are not considered mature until we are about two, or even three, years of age. We don’t generally bark very much, if at all, until we are approaching maturity. This is because our main reason for barking is when we perceive danger – something that doesn’t worry us at all until we start to feel protective of our families.

Once we do start barking, many of us are quite enthusiastic about it – some would say too enthusiastic! We discover that we like the sound of our voices and barking can be fun. I was more than a year old when I began to bark regularly, but other Pyrs may start earlier or later than I did.

Before I tell you about ways to prepare for the barking phase, I’d like you to watch this educational video. It contains a message for bipeds and for dogs. There may be a test later!

Bipeds, I’m sure you noticed that the dogs did have a very good reason for barking, even though the humans with them didn’t understand what it was.

Doggies, where do I begin? Many of you will already know that humans tend to think we’re just making a noise, but this may surprise you younger dogs. Barking louder and longer really doesn’t get our message across to them!

All is not lost, we need to learn to listen to each other better. This brings me to my advice to adolescent Pyrs and their bipeds, but these things could be useful for other dogs.

When we are barking it can be difficult to get our attention, so training with us to get and hold our attention will be helpful. This can be done by attracting our attention with a click of the fingers or a word such as “look” and giving us a treat, or use a clicker if you train together that way. When we are used to the idea of getting the treat for giving our attention, gradually make us wait a moment. This can be very useful to take our focus from whatever we’re barking at.

A Pyr who is barking at full volume may not hear you – we can be quite loud! My bipeds found it useful to get my attention by touching me, but I was already relaxed about them touching me when I wasn’t expecting it. This is fun to train, keep some treats handy and at odd times just touch the dog and then give a treat.

Socialisation is extremely important. The more experiences that a Pyr has had, the less things there will be that worry him, or her. Although he’ll probably bark at everything when he discovers his bark, with patience and consistency the barking can be reduced and this is a lot easier if the dog is confident and well socialised.

Training together and positive experiences through socialisation build a strong bond between dog and biped, which means we will trust you when you tell us there’s nothing to worry about.

I wrote about some techniques for when the barking begins in “To bark, or not to bark, that is the question“.

I have also written about reducing barking at night – “Why barking at night can be a good thing

See you next Wednesday!