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


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!

World Cup Fever

Thank you for your understanding and good wishes last week. The female biped was a little under the weather. I kept a very close eye on her and did everything possible to help her until I’d nursed her back to health.

I also have my paws full supporting the male biped while he follows England in the World Cup. Anyone who knows anything at all about football (soccer) knows that supporting England is not for the faint of heart! It isn’t surprising that he needs me to cheer him up during and after the matches. I can always be found at his feet while he’s watching, unless, of course, I’ve been offered the opportunity to go for a walk! What dog can refuse a walk?

World Cup 2014, Brazil, football and trophy in stadium

We have a lovely tradition that means that I get a treat when the correct team scores a goal. It all began the very first time that I watched a football match with him. He was quite excited and cheered when his team scored a goal. This startled me and so he asked me to sit and then gave me a treat. Ever since then I’ve had a treat to help celebrate a goal. Sometimes I get one when the wrong team score because I know there’s been a goal and I look up for a treat. He gives me a treat because he thinks I don’t know which side has scored!

One day when we were watching a match his cheers about a goal turned to groans of despair and he told me it wasn’t a goal as it was offside. The female biped said that was unfair, the pundits will spend what seems like hours discussing whether someone was offside or not so he shouldn’t expect a dog to grasp the offside rule. He said that, of course, he was going to give me a treat and handed it over. I decided that if the ball goes in the net then I’m counting it as a goal and that means a treat!

Bone-shaped dog biscuits, treats


The rules of the game seem fairly straightforward, but they are all open to interpretation. I wouldn’t want to be a referee – it seems that each decision they make upsets the supporters of one side or the other. I have struggled with understanding when a tackle should be penalised. Sometimes a player is “blatantly taken down by a cynical tackle” and the player doing the tackling should be given a yellow, maybe even a red, card. At other times, something that looks the same to me is a player going down because “his legs are made of jelly” or “he is diving” in the hope of getting a free kick. I use the colour of the shirt that the player is wearing as a rule of paw to know which is which – obviously my biped doesn’t support the team with the players who dive and do bad tackles!

Dog biscuit

England lost their first two matches, but that’s not altogether bad news – they scored some goals! The players will be on their way home, after playing their last group match, by the time you read this. But my duties as a football supporter won’t be over, the male biped will be picking and choosing which matches to watch based on how enjoyable he expects them to be. I hope there are lots of goals in the games we watch – not because I get a treat for each one, oh no, but because that will make the games exciting for him!

See you next Wednesday!

The dog friendly hotel that wasn’t

I enjoy going on holiday with my bipeds and I’ve stayed in some very interesting places. Other people have usually been keen to meet me wherever we’ve been staying. When my bipeds told me that we were going to stay in a boarding house that was especially friendly to dogs on our way back home from Devon, I thought it would be very special.

It was early evening when we arrived in a fairly small car park and we got out of the car. We went up the steps and when we opened the front door, I could tell that the female biped had noticed the strong, doggy aroma. We went in and three dogs rushed out barking at us. Someone came out and sent the dogs away. She said that her own dogs couldn’t normally get into the areas open to guests, as her dogs didn’t like other dogs being there!

As we went upstairs to our room, the female biped was whispering about the ripe, doggy smell. When we went into our room the male biped said, “See, it’s clean enough and it smells fresher in here.”

They unpacked my things and gave me some water and a snack. I settled down for a nap while they chatted and unpacked some of their things. They decided they would both have a shower and change and we would go out to eat. The female biped went to find the bathroom. She returned after only a few minutes and said, “There’s no shower and I’m not getting in that bath! I’ve had a quick wash to freshen up.”

The male biped replied, “You’re too fussy!”

She said, “Maybe, but the bath looks as though it’s been used by a couple of muddy Labradors!”

He said, “You could have rinsed it out.”

She said, “It needs more than a rinse. I’d rather take a bath in an old horse trough in a field!”

Old, rusty bath in a field

Bath? No, thank you!
Attribution: Matthew Hatton [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The male biped laughed and said, “I feel like a relaxing bath after being in the car. Is there any hurry?”

She said, “No, take all the time you want. Clowie looks as though she’s settling down for a nap and I’ll read.”

The male biped gathered some things together and left the room. We settled down to wait for him, but he wasn’t gone for many minutes.

The female biped asked, “Did you forget something?”

“No, but I was thinking that you’re probably tired, so it makes sense to go out now and get an early night. Then we’ll be able to make the most of tomorrow for exploring.”

The female biped seemed to be having trouble not laughing and said, “Really? And that change in thinking has nothing to do with the state of the bath?”

He grinned and said, “Absolutely not! Are you ready to go out?”

We made our way down the stairs and we were just about to go out of the main door when the male biped said quietly, “You were wrong about it being two muddy Labradors that used the bath – it was three muddy Border Collies!”

He nodded towards the open door to the bar area where some bipeds were sitting having a drink with three clean, but rather damp, Border Collies.

We went out and found a pleasant pub that allowed me to sit quietly with my bipeds while they had a meal. A few scraps found their way down to me, so it was an enjoyable evening.

The next morning the male biped said that it wasn’t the fault of the guesthouse if people had used the bath for their dogs and not cleaned up after themselves and that the bathroom would probably be spotless now. The female biped looked unconvinced but gathered her things and left the room. She was soon back, saying it was worse and she’d rather break the ice on a horse trough!

Frozen trough

I’d rather break the ice on a horse trough!
Attribution: wfmillar [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The male biped made a short visit to the bathroom and we headed down for breakfast. My bipeds agreed that this should be fun as there was a special doggy menu.

We opened the door to the breakfast room and were greeted by lots of barking. There were about eight tables in there, all quite close together. Most of the bipeds had two or three dogs with them. We were ushered to the table with our room number on it and, as we passed them, several dogs tried to lunge at us. My bipeds helped me to get between the table and the wall so that I was not near any other dogs.

My bipeds didn’t take long over breakfast. They both said they weren’t really hungry. I could tell they were keeping a close eye on what was going on around us.

When we left the breakfast room another dog and his bipeds followed us. He had been sitting under the table looking scared. His bipeds spoke to my bipeds and we dogs greeted each other. Our bipeds all agreed that it was the worst place they’d ever stayed in and they wouldn’t be coming back!

It certainly wasn’t the fun we’d been hoping, but it was an interesting experience!

See you next Wednesday!

I’m Gonna Crawl

I was really excited when my bipeds took me to Devon with them for a holiday. We stayed in a cottage that was close to the South West Coast Path and most days we went out and walked a different section of the path. We explored some wonderful beaches!

I thought I was quite an expert on stiles and kissing gates. I already knew that I can get through some kissing gates and that it usually means a nice reward. I had also seen stiles of different shapes and sizes and I knew it’s usually difficult for large dogs to use a footpath unless there is an alternative to the stile – I told you about one of those last week.

So I was surprised to discover a type of stile I’d never come across before. At first it looked just like any other stile, but then I noticed it had what looked like a large cat flap at the side. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the male biped say it was a dog door! It didn’t look very big at all.

Shows the way a dog door works at the side of a stile

This photograph of one in Kent shows how a dog door works.
Richard Dorrell [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The male biped raised the door. It wouldn’t lift very far. My bipeds said it was about the right size for a Border Collie to walk through, but the Collie would bump his head if he didn’t duck! They looked at the size of the gap created and then the female biped climbed over the stile, leaving me with the male biped.

The male biped asked me to get into the “down” position really close to the door. The female biped bent down on the other side of the door and asked me to “crawl”. I edged forward a little and then I stopped because I would be in the gap if I continued. The female biped urged me to “crawl” again and encouraged me through the gap. When I was through she told me I could get up and gave me a tasty treat and a cuddle.

The male biped was busy singing “I’m Gonna Crawl” (Led Zeppelin). He looked hilarious standing on the top of the stile singing and playing air guitar in the pouring rain!

We encountered many stiles with dog doors after that. The doors varied in size but most of them were larger than that first one. I got quicker and quicker at wriggling my way through them. The female biped said that was because I didn’t want to listen to the song again, but that’s silly because I love it when my bipeds sing! I had thought that crawling was just a trick I did to get treats, but it can be just as useful as walking backwards!

We saw some beautiful places, but my bipeds didn’t take any photographs on that holiday. Each day they said it wasn’t worth taking the camera out with us as it was raining so hard. They said the weather was bound to be better the next day, but we didn’t get any days without heavy rain. I don’t know what else they expected in the Springtime! I’ve found some photographs on Wikimedia Commons of some of the places I saw – it looks like other people have had better luck with the weather than we did. It’s a good thing I enjoy getting wet!

See you next Wednesday!

This puppy is not for turning

When I was a puppy I would get bored very quickly if training sessions weren’t exciting. I didn’t see the point in repeating the things I knew how to do, over and over again. I loved learning new things to do and that was how my bipeds kept my interest in a training session. This means I have quite a repertoire of tricks I can do for treats, which is always a good thing!

Still more bones wanted for salvage poster - with dog holding bone up

One of these tricks turned out to be dangerous for the male biped and was abandoned, but some of the tricks have come in useful and I plan to tell you about one of those today.

One of the earliest tricks they taught me was to walk backwards. My biped would be in front of me while I was standing and she would get a treat and take it right under my nose towards my chest. I would tuck my head in to get the treat but I couldn’t quite get it until I took a step back. Once I knew what she wanted me to do, she added the word “back”. After a few weeks we started to build up the number of steps I took to make it more entertaining for me.

When I was a puppy I had a knack for sticking my head, and sometimes the rest of me, into tight corners. My bipeds said that I followed my nose without a thought to getting out again. There’s some truth in that, but I still think it’s a very bad arrangement of furniture if you can push your way behind the sofa and not have room to turn around to get out again! They didn’t like me pushing the furniture out of my way, so they would say “back” to me so that I reversed out. I soon became quite proficient at reversing!

When I was about six months old and almost the size I am now, my bipeds took me with them to visit some other bipeds. I sat very quietly indoors and, when we went outside, the bipeds that we were visiting said that it would be fine to let me loose in the garden. I sniffed around the grass and played with one of my toys while the bipeds all sat and chatted.

Then I decided to go and sniff the large greenhouse that was in one corner of the garden. One of my bipeds called me away and I went back to sniffing the grass. When the bipeds were happily chatting again, I moved away and went back to the greenhouse. There was a gap behind it, leaving just enough room to walk between it and the fence.

I went into the gap and scurried along it, only to be confronted by another fence at the end of the greenhouse. It was a dead end! Before I had time to consider how I was going to get out I heard one of my bipeds say, “Clowie, keep still!”

Dead End Sign

I stayed where I was and it was only a second later that the female biped was right behind me. She said, “Clowie, back!”

I started walking backwards. Occasionally she would put a hand on one side of me or the other to keep me reversing in a straight line. It would have been so much easier with wing mirrors!

When we were out safely the male biped said, “That was a nice piece of driving – puppy and greenhouse intact!”

I don’t get into pickles like that anymore! I’m also much better at reversing now. I can reverse round a corner and I can do a three-point turn with a little help!

Diagram of three-point turn

See you next Wednesday!