Monday, June 16, 2008

Lessons I've Learned In Obedience School

We brought Samba home when she was eight weeks old. By ten weeks she had learned to sit and down on command. It was a game. I had planned to teach these pups at about the same age, but then the ice storm struck and we were without electricity for twelve days with eight un-housebroken pups living in the kitchen. It not only set the housetraining back, but it set the other training back, too. Just keeping our sanity was our first priority. We're getting a very late start on training, but we're making progress.

When Samba was in class, she learned quickly, but became bored just as quickly. After 15 or 20 minutes she got tired of walking around in circles and sitting and lying down. If I couldn't come up with something new and more exciting, she just shut down. She would hang her head and drag around the room, wouldn't listen and would just curl up to sleep. The instructor told me it was my job to keep her attention, but having lived with PWDs for twenty years, I know they need more stimulation and shorter training periods.

I work with the pups several times a day, usually around meals, and only for short periods. I want it to be fun and not to wear them down. Tonight at dinner we made real progress. Sky caught on to 'down' and was doing it on his own. Lola has good reliable 'sits' and 'downs' both on her own. Bailey does good 'sits' and pretty good 'downs'.

Noah runs around like a nut and pretends that he doesn't know what I'm talking about, but he actually does do a pretty good 'sit' once I calm him down. Tess, as usual, has trouble concentrating, but is also doing a pretty good 'sit' if I can get her attention.

Norma Jean does a great, enthusiastic 'down' throwing herself on the ground with gusto. It makes me laugh because she's always so happy about everything she does. When I told her what a good girl she was, she wiggled all over the place.

Fudge is still doing his own version of 'down'. Tonight he kept hiding his face from the camera. I think he's tired of having his picture taken.

For a long time I've played a game with Samba at dinner time. I put her in a 'sit-stay' then set her bowl of food on the floor about a foot in front of her. She has to wait till I release her from her 'stay' before she can eat. I vary the length of time I make her wait and she quivers in excitement, but she holds her 'stay'. Tonight I tried it with Fudge and he only needed one reminder. I also tried putting him in a 'sit-stay' then taking three steps backwards, then walking toward him. I repeated the forward and back three times, released him and rewarded him. He's pretty pleased with himself.

Notice the paw over the face. These are three separate 'down' commands with exactly the same reaction.

I'm afraid I save everything. I have their puppy teeth in boxes and here are some of the many tags my dogs have worn over the years. There are ID tags, rabies tags, and license tags from various states. I guess I could make a funky sort of necklace with them.

Now I'm afraid we have to move on to the hardest thing to teach a PWD, 'stay'. This is going to take some time and a lot of patience on their part as well as my own. I only wish I had an extra set of hands.

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