Friday, January 30, 2009

Is the LBD well trained?

Crazy Sister asked the question as to whether the LBD is well trained?

Well, yes... and no.

And did we use food rewards?

The official line is 'no - dogs shouldn't be motivated by food rewards, they should do it because they were told to by someone higher up their pack structure', - but the truth is closer to 'not very often' (the LBD enjoys treats, but attention is much more motivating for him).

Of course, the answer to the question could so easily end here, except that I can't help myself...

I did from time to time struggle with the LBD to help him realise that I was the boss (or at least boss of him). I am of course a very dutiful and submissive wife, and my husband's word is law - my Beloved's word is most often 'whatever' so it's not that hard to take it as law!

This power struggle ended up with some interesting behaviours on my part meant to illustrate my superiority - staring down at him from my impressive height with him belly-up and submissive; eating before him; taking his food or bone away mid-meal, etc. Yep, I did all the work with training, and he wouldn't always do what he was supposed to - but anything my Beloved might suggest...

Apparently that's not unusual for a male dog and female trainer. He is a boy (well, nearly a boy - poor puppy) and in the dog world that means he's the boss - although he seems to have settled into a happily hen-pecked middle age (much like his Dad).

The LBD will 'sit' (although I don't make him do it so much anymore because of the arthritis in his back legs).

He will 'drop' (i.e. lie down)

He will 'give' (i.e. let go of the ball, rope, or toy so that I can have it)
"the way my heart explodes with joy,
upon receipt of slimy toy!" - I must work on creating a poem from that impressive couplet.

He will 'leave' (i.e. not eat that disgusting squished toad on the road - ewyuck)

He will 'On your mat' if he's inside.

He will 'outside' (even if his eyes are pleading to stay in)

He will 'out of the road' or 'behind', and used to 'heel' but it's not something we use very often these days and he's out of practise.

He will mostly 'stay', for up to about 10 minutes, even if we're out of the room. I did say MOSTLY.

He also waits for his food to be put down and then to be given the magic words and bowl-tap before he starts. This is good because you can continue putting food into the bowl and not have to keep shoo-ing the dog away to get at the bowl. Or landing the next scoop on their head and having to clean up. On the other hand, I would suggest if you train Dash to do this that you also tell whoever is looking after her (when you're away for the weekend) what the magic words are! Fortunately for the LBD, the friends watching him became perturbed by the fact that he wasn't eating his food and tapped on the bowl to encourage him, with some key words along the right lines.

These are all good things, and we very rarely used food rewards in his training, as one of the girls at my work was into dog obedience, tracking and agility training and was also really against food rewards - it was easier just to use lots of positive attention with the LBD rather than lie to her over the smoko table. Plus the LBD is really into positive attention... or any attention, in fact.

There are a few things that we've never really established.

His interpretation of 'come' is more along the lines of "If you've got nothing better to do, and you run into no interesting scents en route, would you care to move in this general direction? ...Whenever you're ready."

The two exceptions that prove the rule were:
1. When we were doing 'Brigadoon' for Choral Society and my Beloved was practising his lines as Mr Ritchie and came out with "Come, Harry, and help your father!" Which of course meant that the LBD arrived post haste into the lounge room where he wasn't supposed to be. We couldn't very well get mad at him about that. (Oops, I think I've just given away a real name, oh well!)

And 2. my Mum always bids her guests to 'please enter' if the LBD is around, because he interprets 'Come in' as being for his benefit and will squeeze in past any human who happens to be in the way.

He is also supposed to 'stand/stay' - and doesn't. 'Drop/stay' - but won't stay dropped, and I've worked with him ever since we had him to 'sit' when we come to cross a road (he has no road sense at all) and it has never really taken. Now I make him stand when we come to cross a road, and that's not really working either.

He's not really into 'fetch'. Mainly because a ball or stick is not interesting unless someone else wants it and is even more uninteresting as soon as it stops moving.

We've never managed a clean 'come/drop/stay' combination, which is a good emergency skill if there's ever a reason that I urgently need him to drop and stay exactly where he is. His version of 'drop' is always more of a 'come over to me and drop'.

When we used to go to obedience classes (for a couple of months when he was about 8 months old) he'd do this remarkable 'heel' thing where I'd turn around 180 degrees and he'd go around me the opposite way to end up 'heeling' on the left side again. He'd also 'heel' at multiple paces, from a slow march to jogging (even off lead).

The good thing about obedience classes was for me learning to train the dog. The actual training of the dog occurred at home each day. I guess we've established the commands that we needed for our lifestyle, and the others have been let slide. He's hardly any work at all now, and is well behaved mostly, unless he's overexcited. I'd never let him off leash at a beach, for example. The only thing is that I do really wish we'd established 'come' earlier, but the chances of teaching an old dog a new trick?

... Approximately None

(or at least not without lots and lots of work)


Dee from Downunder said...

Sounds like you have done all the right things. My cattle dog never went for the treat reward. Sometimes a favorite ball thrown in the air after they do the right thing works for some dogs.

Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

LBD sounds like a great dog - well done to you for having him so well trained.

I am so slow tonight I had to read you name giveaway paragraph four times before I worked it out. Duh!