Monday, January 25, 2010

A new "leash" on life

I know... it's about time Joe and I work on our second trick. This time I wanted to be a little more prepared, and have a better idea of whats ahead of us.

The trick book contains 101 dog tricks; so when selecting a trick for Joe to learn I have to avoid the tricks he already knows. Pretty much any trick you would ever want your dog to know, is in this book, from "sit" to "roll a barrel" (that will be an interesting one to teach him). So, I thought it would be nice to count how many tricks Joe knows. Including his newest addition of "Place" (and based off how the book names and categorizes the tricks), Joe knows 17 tricks! We only have 84 more to go!

I will be the first to admit that I did not personally teach Joe everything he knows. I became Joe's owner just over 2 years ago. He was about 2 years old, and already very obedient and lovable. Some of Joe's standard built in features included sit, lay down, stay, fetch, give/drop, and come. Probably even more! Some extra tricks came to him naturally after a short time, like stand, shake, roll-over, speak, peakaboo, jump up, etc. It was very easy to teach Joe tricks at the beginning (and still is). In college I never had cable television, so Joe was my entertainment, and he took this task very seriously. He has brought me so much happiness, I'm so excited that he's mine for the rest of his life!

Ok onto the next trick! I'm am now beginning to teach Joe "Get your Leash." It's different than anything he knows, so maybe their will be less confusion, and I think it would come in handy!

So basically you encourage your dog to get his leash, by first playing fetch with it, and then you hang it up and tell him to get it. Sounds pretty simple! This time instead of using a treat to reward your dog, you take your dog for a walk to reward him! So I pull out Joe's leash, and again he is highly excited.

Then I learned something new, Joe CAN get even more excited about his leash. Oh boy. He already jumps all over the place when I bring out the leash, but when I throw it and say "get your leash" in a very excited tone, it's gets even more dangerous to be in a 5 foot vicinity of him! Besides the utter chaos, it was awesome, he ran after his leash, looked at it, then at me, and had a look on his face that said "No hablo ingles." Jose (his Spanish name, which I often use, along with Mr Joe, Mr Nubbin, Mr Smiley Face, Bud, Pup, My love, etc) had no clue what I was asking him to do. He has never known that it was ok for him to pick up his own leash. I got him as excited as I could about his leash, waved it around saying "get it" until he put his mouth on it.

I thought this was it! We've got it! I then put the leash on my door knob, so that Joe could get his leash on his own. After asking him, he stared at the door, barking. Very successful indeed. I realized before beginning this, that since the reward to this trick is a walk, this isn't a trick that can be practiced constantly and over and over, it's just not feasible. Once or twice a day is going to have to be enough for my schedule. So I took the leash off the door and waved it around until Joe took hold of it again. I decided that was good enough! We clipped the leash on, and off we went, to get the mail!

The story doesn't really end here. Of course this was about 4:30pm and it's January, so yes, it was raining outside. This doesn't matter to dogs though, not really. And Joe in particular gets really nice and wet, and dirty, probably making the whole experience better for him. I thought to myself, I started this trick and now I'm finishing! I let Joe have some free rein on the end of his leash, since he is such a good dog, and walked briskly to the mail box. Once nearing our house at the end of our voyage, Joe's arch nemesis began to taunt him. Yes, it was the laughing squirrel. This time it's right on top of the fence, for once in Joe's reach! Normally the diabolical creature teases Joe and Snickers (our Jack Russell) from the very top of the tree. Being that I always keep my dog in check when on his leash and never let him get into trouble, I hopped the ditch and let Joe have his chance! Of course the Squirrel swiftly scampered up the tree, and laughed!

It was one fun day for Joe and I, and I look forward to practicing some more tomorrow!

PS The picture above is from Joe's first trip to Ocean Shores... as you can tell he loves the beach.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Place continued....

I just completed my second session with Joe.

We were continuing to practice our new "place" trick, and started with a bit of a refresher. Joe started on his leash, and did so well that half way through I took it off him. He really does catch on fast. I guess I do need to remember that his is an "easy" trick. We'll really test Joes' intelligence later!

Despite the simplicity of this trick, I could not be happier with Joe's progress. He's such a great learner! After a bit we just practiced place by using voice and hand signals only. He's almost got it down. Now I'm just getting excited about what to teach him next! Good thing I have a whole book of tricks to choose from!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Beginning

Here we go!

Today I'm starting my first blog ever, and it's not really about me. This is a story about a girl and her dog.

Joe is my 3 year old Australian Shepherd. He is my companion, my source of joy, and he and I are on a mission. For Christmas I received a gift (one that I hope will prove very fun, and useful), of a dog training book called "101 Dog Tricks" by Kyra Sundance and her dog Chalcy. The mission is this: Teach Joe every trick in the book, literally. Some he already knows, the basics, like sit, lay down, shake, and a couple extras like roll over, crawl, jump in my arms, and peekaboo. All of which he has learned very quickly and is very eager to perform.

We're going to skip some of the background and dive right in.

The first "trick" I'm teaching Joe is called "Place", it's not the first in the book, actually it's on page 166 and in Chapter 10. But it's an "easy" one, difficulty level= one paw, and it's one I want Joe to know.

The Trick: Have your dog, starting in front of you, circle behind you to the right, and sit on your left side. The book suggests that you start with your dog on his/her leash. So armed with my dog's leash, and three Kraft singles I'm ready to start.

So, to begin Joe is excited to see his leash in my hand. You kidding me! It's December in western Washington, Joe hasn't seen his leash in weeks! Once the leash is on, Joe is exceedingly excited because apparently this night time walk we're about to take also involves cheese! Here goes nothing. Joe eagerly sitting in front of me, probably thinking "Oh man I have my leash on, best night ever, gonna do whatever it takes to get that cheese out of her hand!" I start the training. I follow the steps and say the cue. Joe is doing everything right that's completely wrong. His ears are perked up, he's barking, he's up, he's down, he's rolling around, he's up ever higher, and tangled in his leash.

Now I'm thinking, wow this is going to be harder than I thought. I continued saying the cue, and literally dragging him around me, thinking there's something wrong with this. So I refer to the "directions" as if I'm putting together a complicated piece of furniture and have two nuts left. Except this time the nuts are my dog and I.

Under troubleshooting in the book, it's says "I feel like I'm just pulling my dog around me", hmm sounds helpful. The tips are encouraging, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I guess dragging him is okay right now, til he figures it out on his own, Joe doesn't seem to care, he gets cheese at the end no matter what!

After more practicing (which is really me feeling frustrated, but laughing, and glad to see how willing joe is to please me) Joe starts circling around me! We've only been working on this for about 10 minuets! My dog is the smartest dog ever!! Sweet, so the next time I ask he's really gonna do well! Nope. He dove towards the cheese in my left hand when he's supposed to be going to the right. Great. I started putting my left hand behind my back holding the cheese treat to encourage Joe to go around me, and not through me. After some more practice we're back on the right track.

Now that we're doing "okay" I decide lets try it without his leash! My dog is a genius right? This was a little more challenging, but after a few tries asking him, and giving him the hand cue Joe, very quickly, circles behind me and sits on my left! He did well! I did well! So that's is for the night. I figure we'll spend a couple more days, and a few more Kraft single perfecting our "place" skills, before we move on to bigger and better tricks!