Home > curlykidz, my bad ass dogs > Soft Feathers on a Duck

Soft Feathers on a Duck

I was on Skype with my sister the other day, who lives in Germany & has an 18mo Saint Bernard… probably not the dog I would recommend to a first time dog owner with limited access to obedience classes, training supplies, & breed & training books. I’m sure all these things can be found in Germany… but my sister hasn’t come across them and hasn’t been able to get anything shipped to her from US suppliers like Petsmart, because it’s an APO. Anyway, she’s got this 120 pound dog she can no longer control, and she and her husband are at complete odds as far as how to manage it. I was giving her some suggestions and pointers that have worked for me, and thought… what the heck. It’s not like my blog doesn’t already go in seven directions at once, and decided I’d blog about my training efforts.

So far, the new additions to our crew are working out really well… The dogs are getting along remarkably well with each other, and have been great with the kids. Sassy is really warming up and starting to seek out attention, and Rico… well, he has love like an ocean for everybody. Slowly but surely, Sassy & Rico are learning the new house rules.

Training, I have to admit, has been going a little slow… in part because I’m not just training, I’m re-training… and not just one dog, but two, as this is the first time I’ve introduced two new dogs into the mix at once. Not to mention, I have three little helpers who want to chime in every time I speak to a dog… and now the dog in question has a variety of commands coming from all corners.

Training or retraining a dog in a busy household with kids requires a certain amount of dedication, and more than a little creativity. One of the ways you have to get creative is with your commands… because you only add to the confusion if you try to give your dog a command that you say to your children, or that they scream at each other, several times a day. Needless to say, I don’t say “no” when I’m correcting my dogs… with as often as I say it to my kids, the dogs would be thinking they were in trouble all day, every day. So my “no reward marker” is something they will never hear me say in regular conversation… “AAANK.” My invitation to join me on furniture or jump up into the car is “up up.” I use “off” for get off (get off me, the unsuspecting stranger who just wanted to pet you, my furniture if you weren’t invited, etc), down means lay down and sit means sit. One cue, one action.

One Cue, One Action

 Dogs don’t understand that a word can have several different meanings. To humans, the word down can mean “lie down on the ground,” “get off the sofa,” “don’t jump on me,” “I’m feeling a little depressed today,” or “soft feathers on a duck.”

Pat Miler, The Power of Positive Dog Training

I realized the other day how often I tell my youngest to walk about the 3rd time Rico planted himself directly in my path. My dogs have regular collars they wear all the time with their tags, and slip collars or head haltars for walking. It didn’t take either dog long to learn what those collars meant, or that I won’t put the collar on unless they are in front of me, in a sit. I had been using the command, “Let’s walk” to signal the dogs I was ready to go, and I guess every time I told Daija to walk, not run, through the house, Rico thought he’d let me know that HE was ready to walk, if she wasn‘t. So I came up with what I think is my most creative command yet… “mosey.” The first time I used it, Halle looked at me like I was crazy. “What does THAT word mean?” I gave her the definition, and explained it’s a word people don’t really use… not to mention, it’s my wishful thinking of what would happen while I’m walking them. Sassy downright saunters… girl has more swing in her hips than I do… until she sees another dog. Rico is just plain a loose cannon. The fact that his doggy match.com profile indicated he was leash trained is downright laughable.

I took each of the dogs separately to Rio Salado Habitat this morning, working on the “watch me“ command, as one of my current training challenges are the high number of distractions at home. Considering her breed, Sassy did remarkably well staying focused on me even as a long eared jack rabbit bounded by. I thought she was going to be the bigger challenge, given her breed & reaction to other dogs on walks through the neighborhood. She’s pretty motivated by food to begin with and she’s on a diet, so those little bits of PupperonI I slipped her every time she looked at me made the training easy. At first, I thought I was going to have similar success with Rico. The first part of our walk, up to the swimming hole, was perfect. He’s not motivated by treats, but he eats up the praise. But as we were leaving that spot, he spied a man walking by and became very alert & aroused. We’d passed a man and a woman just a few minutes before and he paid them no mind, but there was something he didn’t like about this guy. Fortunately by the time we came out of the glade, he was out of sight, but Rico remained on high alert. About half a mile later a lizard of some kind ran across our path and he bolted after it. A few minutes later, a long eared jackrabbit… maybe the same one… and there Rico goes again. We stopped at our second water spot, the stream, and laying down for a few minutes seem to put him back in his relaxed, surfer dude state of mind. I’m thinking I’ll need to cut his food down a little bit as well. He’s a healthy weight, but at least during the initial traning, I really need him to be invested in earning some treats.

  1. September 14, 2009 at 2:38 PM

    Dang girl….that is some serious patience and training….better you than me, that’s for sure!! 🙂
    If I do ever get a dog, I will come right back to this for a lesson is lessons. Thanks!! 🙂

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