Monday, June 29, 2009

Why do we train our dogs?

OK, I admit I’m more into dog training than the vast majority of people, but I still think the rest of the world would benefit by doing more enjoyable dog training with their canine buddies. When I ask people if they train their dogs, they often respond as though I’ve asked if their dog needs pharmaceutical drugs—“Oh no,” they explain, “he’s really pretty good.”

So the first myth I want to dispel is the idea that we train our dogs because they are not not good, or because they’re doing something so wrong that it’s making our lives miserable (by the way, there ARE many cases where that is true, but that’s not the majority of cases). We train our dogs in order to:

  • Keep them safe and possibly save their life,
  • Enrich our life by making it very very pleasant to be in their company, and
  • Enrich their life by making it very fun and interesting to be in our life.

Now some people will think that as long as their dog isn’t soiling the house or biting the neighbor, they get enough pleasure out of the dog to leave things as they are. Dogs are inherently lovable, so don’t think that just because you love your dog you’re done in terms of training.

So what does our end goal look like? I was hoping you’d ask. Let’s go through the list of commands that we who are puppy raisers for the nonprofit assistance dog organization Canine Companions for Independence teach our dogs, so you can have a great idea of the useful and fun behaviors that in my opinion, every pet dog should know and perform even under the most distracting of circumstances…..

31 Commands that a CCI puppy in training learns:

The dog’s name: this is used to get the dog’s attention. The dog should turn its head and look at you, but should not move towards you.

Back: this tells the dog to walk straight backwards

Bed: tells the dog to go to its designated bed and lie down. “Bed” has an implied “stay” command built into it.

Car: tells the dog to get into the car. Your dog should wait until you give the command before jumping into the car.

Come: tells the dog to come directly to you and focus its attention on you until given another command.

Don’t, “uh uh” or no: interrupts the current behavior and stops it, or prevents a behavior that is about to happen.

Down: tells the dog to lie down (with an implied “stay”). Note the difference between this and “off”! Off means “all feet on the floor, please”, while down means “belly on the floor, too”.

Dress: tells the dog to calmly place its head into a harness, a gentle leader head collar, a dog jacket, or whatever.

Drop: tells the dog to drop whatever is in its mouth and not pick it up again unless told to do so.

Heel: tells the dog to move to the handler’s left side and sit or stand close to the left leg, so the dog’s shoulder is even with the handler’s pant seam.

Hurry: is the word we use to tell the dog to eliminate—it lets the dog know that this is an appropriate time and place to toilet.

Jump: tells the dog to up on top of something until given the command “off”.

Kennel: tells the dog to enter the crate/kennel and stay there until asked to exit.

Lap: tells the dog to place the front legs across your lap, resting on his/her elbos until given the command “off”.

Let’s go: tells the dog to walk beside you (on either the right or left side) on a loose leash.

Okay: tells the dog it can eat from its food bowl now that you’ve put it down and are ready.

Off: tells the dog to put all 4 feet on the floor, to get off something or someone.

Out: signals the dog to move forward, ahead of the handler, through a door or archway (and when the dog has cleared the doorway, it turns to face the handler) and remains there until released or given another command.

Quiet: tells the dog to stop barking, whining, growling or making any other noise.

tells the dog that it is free to move out of the previous commanded position.

Roll: tells the dog to roll over on its back, exposing it tummy (this is different than the “roll over” trick many people like to teach—the purpose of this is to let us see and examine the belly. If the dog flips all the way over quickly, we won’t be able to do that so this is meant to have the dog hold the belly-up position).

Shake: tells the dog to offer its paw (in greeting). The dog should raise its paw to the level of its shoulder.

Side: tells the dog to move to the handler’s right side and sit or stand close to the right left—in other words, it’s the “heel” position, but on the right side.

Sit: tells the dog to put its rear on the ground. Sit has an implied “stay” built in.

tells the dog to bark.

Stand: Tells the dog to stand on all four feet, with an implied stay. This is essential for vet exams, grooming, etc.

Turn: tells the dog to turn and face the opposite direction, and stay there.

Under: tells the dog to crawl under a small space or table, and lie down. It has an implied stay. This is essential in cafes, at Starbucks, etc.

Up: tells the dog to place its front paws on an object such as a table, wall or counter.

Visit: tells the dog to rest its head in your lap.

Wait: tells the dog not to cross a threshold or barrier… such as your car door or the front gate. It does not require the dog to remain in an exact position, as “stay” does. The dog can move around behind the barrier, it just can’t cross over.

There are a few additional very useful commands that we puppy raisers would not teach our assistant dog puppies in training because the CCI trainers wanted a “clean slate” when teaching them during advanced training. Those commands included the following, and I do recommend that we teach these to our pet dogs:

Retrieve (involving Get, Hold, and Give)

Friday, June 12, 2009

My summer reading list

This post is not entirely dog oriented, but I thought I'd share my summer reading list:
  • First, a dog book: Shaping Success by Susan Garrett (I'm doing agility this summer with my Sheltie, Toby).
  • A fun book: To Touch a Wild Dolphin- a journey of discovery with the sea's most intelligent creatures by Rachel Smolker (we see dolphins swimming in the evenings in Redondo Beach and I looooooove dolphins and have swum with wild dolphins in the ocean in Hawaii).
  • Discover the Power Within You by Eric Butterworth (a spiritual book)
  • Leading Change by John P. Kotter
  • How People Grow by Cloud and Townsend
  • The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers by Citrin and Smith
  • Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers
  • The China Study (a book relevent to my health goals) by Campbell & Campbell
  • Where's My Fifteen Minutes? by Howard Bragman (relevent to my job)
What's on your reading list? Comment and let me know!