“Why does my dog need to learn obedience? He’s just fine.”
“Manners? Dogs don’t have them and don't need them.”
I’ve heard it over and over again. Several dog owners I’ve met in the past have put down the idea of teaching their dog basic obedience and manners, claiming that their dog “doesn’t need it” or that they would “never use it”. However, they fail to see that they are always yelling at their dog for bad behavior, apologizing for their dog when visitors are present, are constantly chasing the dog that bolted out the gate, and can’t take their dog in public for one problem or several.
Most of the time, teaching their dog basic manners would solve most of their problems.
As in most “ill-behaved” dog cases, the problem is the owner, not the dog.
What’s so hard about teaching manners?
Most of the time, I find that pet owners have one of three reasons for scoffing at teaching their dogs obedience and manners:
Dogs conform to what their owners do, want, and expect. Owners who cannot or will not set boundaries and rules for themselves won’t do it for their dog either. Thus they get an unruly dog who barks tirelessly, guards furniture, pees on everything, and bolts out the door or gate the first opportunity they get.
Owners who set rules, but do not consistently reinforce them, will have a dog who does not take them seriously. The dog will be stubborn and will constantly push the envelope, trying to get their own way, because they know that their owner is a push over and will give up.
Why do dogs need manners?
As if it were not already obvious, the primary reason for teaching dogs manners is for the continued good health of owner and dog. For example, anytime a door opens, the dog (or dogs) run lickety-split toward it and zip right past me and out the open portal of freedom. Caution and deception must be used if I want to get out the gate without having to kick my dog back and fight him to get out the gate first.
I’ve even seen dog owners who get seriously hurt because their dog knocks them down or pops their knees in the attempt to be first out the door or gate. This is not good for you, and this is certainly not good for your dog.
If you get angry at your dog for hurting you, your first instinct is to hurt it back. Don’t deny it. We all feel that way at times. Also, there is always that concern of the dog bolting out of the yard, running away, and getting lost or hit by a car.
So, to fix the problem, you teach your dog to wait patiently for you to open the door or gate AND wait until you give them the “OK” to come out.
It’s not impossible. Even the most unruly dogs can be taught. The key is for YOU to set the rules, keep the rules, and reinforce the rules. Dogs don’t break rules. Humans do. Show your dog what the rules are by example, and he will follow them to the letter.
“Well, my dog is kinda a rebel. He breaks rules all the time.”
No. No dog is a rebel. Humans are. Your dog is a living mirror of how you act. If you can’t keep to the rules, the dog won’t either.
What are "dog manners"?
Sit, stay, come, look, and especially NO are the very basic manners that all dogs should and can learn.
"Sit" is really self explanatory, and when combined with "stay", it becomes a very powerful tool for keeping your furbaby under control. It can be used at mealtime, before going out the gate, when strangers come to the door, and many other things.
"Come" is also pretty self explanatory, I'd think, and can be used in the house, yard, or park.
"Look" is very good to teach your dog to pay attention to you.
Of course, a good dose of vitamin "NO" is good for everyone. I have taught Pilot that when I say "no", I mean that I want him to stop what he's doing immediately and come directly to me.
These "manners" are easy to teach to any dog as long as you have patience and consistency. If you need help, there are a vast number of videos on YouTube that go into teaching dogs these basic commands using positive reinforcement. Here are some to get you started:
Bonus: HOW TO SETTLE AN EXCITED DOG
The Pets & I Critter Hop Link Up
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Some people who know me also know that I am hard of hearing. After an accident in the Spring of 2010, I began to lose my hearing, and by December of the same year I'd lost 80% of it.
Most people have NO CLUE. I have coped very well with the loss, my sister and mom work with me to help keep my speech normal, and I do a great job at pretending to be normal when I am in public. Yes, I should quit pretending, but people get weird when they realize I have a "disability". Some people like to use it to their advantage, or challenge it, or make fun of it.... and that is how individuals get hurt when around me.
I have been considering the possibility of training Pilot to be my hearing ear dog. Two years before Pilot and I found each other, I had a German Shepherd that I intended to train to be my hearing dog. After a most unfortunate set of circumstances, that fell through, and since then I have not had the confidence or the desire to try again. Recently, however, I've been working up the nerve to try again. As a result, my mom bought me a book from Amazon titled "My Ears Have A Wet Nose" by Anne Wicklund.
I sat down and was able to read it in an hour and walk away with some new things to think about. It was not at all boring, like I thought it would be, and it did a fine job of answering some of my questions, bringing forward ideas and issues I'd not thought of before, and it was full of outside resources and "help lines".
It covered topics such as:
What tasks does a hearing ear dog preform?
Choosing a dog - agencies, shelters, breeders
Training your own
And so much more...
You may find as you lose more of your hearing that when the dog is with you, it gives you confidence to be outside of your home. You will not feel so tentative because you cannot hear the sounds that normal people hear.... this is true whether you are taking a walk or going to the grocery store. This was an unexpected twist for my husband. The more hearing he lost, he found that if we were in a store together and I turned down an aisle out of his sight, he would start to panic. Until you have a dog that works for you, you will probably not even be aware of this added bonus. Up until now, you thought the dog would just let you know about the telephone and doorbell - but there is so much more.
I was actually in a state of shock after reading this part. My first thought was tearfully thinking "Somebody understands how I feel..." (Which is stupid. I mean, DUH, of course someone understands!), and my second thought was that, after spending so much of my own time researching and learning about hearing ear dogs and how to train them, the thought had honestly never occurred to me that having a trained dog with me, in public and at home, would make me feel safer and more confident. Because, that panic the author mentioned above is real and it is something that I do face every day, not just when I'm out in public. The thought that I could live without having to face that feeling daily, simply by having a dog who plays the roll of my ears, makes me eager. I wasn't eager to work towards getting a hearing dog before, but now I am.
On the training, the author goes into the importance of a strong bond between the dog and human, and the stable temperament that the dog must have. It had several good tips for training your own service dog and traveling with it, really simplifying everything and giving you extra resources to study in the case you'd like more information. There are also featured testimonials from other people with different dogs and in a variety of situations, one of which Pilot and I could greatly relate to and which gave me hope for his training (it is currently slow, because he does not generally react to sound).
My mom purchased the spiral bound edition of the book, but you can also purchase it in Kindle. I was impressed by how well made the spiral bound is, and I think it will last me a long time (which is good, because I will likely use it a lot).
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who was looking at the possibility of needing or training a hearing ear service dog. It is not overwhelming for the newbie to read and it gives them a great start along with excellent advice. At the same time, it also offers something for those people who are well acquainted with the hearing dog world.
The Pets & I Critter Hop
I was talking to a gal other night, bragging shamelessly about Pilot. I mean, he's a pretty awesome dog. What is there not to brag about? However, in the middle of my conversation, a thought dawned on me: Pilot is my ideal dog.
I have been a "animal foster parent" for several years now and have had a number of different dogs (along with other critters) come and go in my life. All of them were good dogs, in their own ways.
Most were not stranger friendly, and some were aggressive toward other dogs and animals. A couple got car sick easily and hated to travel. Despite such "shortcomings", they were good dogs and eager to please. However, none of them were the "perfect" dog for me.
What is my "ideal" dog? Well, even I didn't know the answer to that question until the other night.
Pilot is an full time extrovert. He likes to go places and meet people, so he's the perfect travel companion and therapy dog. He LOVES kids. Like, seriously, kids rank at the top of his priority list. If he sees kids, he will cry and cry until they come pet him. However, his love of people makes him a horrible watch dog.
Though he is a champion sparrow killer, and he believes that he will one day catch the wascaly-wabbit who frequents our yard, Pilot is great with animals. He is always eager to meet new dogs and play with them. Cats are "whatever". Chickens are ignored. He behaves excellent when around unstable dogs, whom he has learned to ignore and keep his eyes on me.
His energy level is set at "firecracker" which is just a notch below "force-of-nature". If I do not take him on a walk at least twice a week, he keeps me up at night. The more walks I take him on, the more calm and centered he becomes. One of his favorite things to do is jog. That is NOT my favorite thing to do, but, I jog as often as possible, just for him, because I love him. I am planning to get a bike, and I have no doubt that Pilot will enjoy biking as much as jogging (and so will I).
All that energy translates into mental energy as well, and I have found that teaching Pilot new tricks is nearly as important as taking him on a walk. He learns knew things quickly and retains what he learns. Up to date, he knows 20 different commands and tricks, including "roll out a rug with your nose", "wipe your paws", and "play dead".
Also, my schedule is pretty much non-existent. It is crazy and unpredictable. Thankfully, Pilot rolls with it. I've no doubt that he'd like a predictable schedule better, but he is clearly not a dog that has a great need for it.
So, in short, my dog is:
Yep. Pilot is my ideal dog.
And to think that he was a skunk-smelling roadside drop-off that some cowboy found and put in my truck.
You may call it good luck, or happenstance, or whatever, but I call the whole thing a God-send.
Before you leave: I've started a animal centered link up called "The Pets & I Critter Hop". My plan is to post the link up every Monday. If you have any blog posts concerning animals - pets, wildlife, funny stories, tips, item reviews, or even just pictures - please link it up below! It is my hope that this link up will grow into something pretty popular where people will come to find lots of amazing stories, pictures, and helpful tips.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord... ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." - Leviticus 23:33-34 & 39-43
My favorite holiday in America is Thanksgiving. People reflect on good things, they eat, they're happy, they eat, they actually seem grateful for once, they eat, the family gets together and remembers good times, they eat.... and there is food. Loads and loads of wonderful food.
Thanksgiving is basically the American version of Feast of Tabernacles. So you might be able to guess which Feast of the LORD is my favorite now.
Maybe William Bradford and the pilgrims got the idea of Thanksgiving from Feast of Tabernacles?
Oh my gosh.
You might have been celebrating a Jewish based feast since childhood and never knew it!
(BTW, in case you missed them, you can read about Feast of Trumpets here, and Day of Atonement here.)
Feast of Tabernacles is honestly one of the funnest feasts to celebrate! You basically camp out in a home-made tent for a week, harvest some Fall produce, and eat, and rejoice, and eat again.
Now, my family has always adored the idea of building a sukkah, or "booth"... aka HOME MADE TENT... to celebrate Tabernacles. But... well.... the state of Oklahoma takes our efforts to build a sukkah as a personal challenge and does its double best to find every weakness in our cute little "booth". Seriously. If it can't blow our home made tent into Kansas or Texas, then it rains bucket loads onto it (which, we never complain about the rain, but, seriously Oklahoma?)
Thank goodness God isn't legalistic about all this stuff. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if He doesn't get tickled by our tiny efforts against the "forces of nature"...
A "tabernacle" is traditionally made out of stuff that grows out of the ground... so there is a broad spectrum of materials to choose from. It is meant to be a quick-throw-together kind of project, so you don't put a lot of effort into it, but you make sure it is sturdy enough to last 8 days and keep you out of the weather, basically.
I've seen some folk build very basic booths out of corn-stalks and tree branches. Others get really fancy and do a nice bamboo roof and use clothe and tapestries for the walls, and even put rugs on the floor. Some take the smart route and just use trellis and, like, staple it all together around their picnic table (thumbs up).
As a fun project, I asked the kids to help me make a video of our doggies building themselves booths and staying in them to "celebrate" Feast of Tabernacles.
Well.... the dogs didn't actually build their booths. They wouldn't cooperate. So the kids and I built them, then the dogs reaped the benefits of our hard work by sitting in them for a few seconds while I videoed it and made them look cute and awesome.
The kids thought it would be fun if we took the "Three Little Pigs" approach with the video, so that's what we did (even though bricks aren't technically the proper material to build a sukkah with).
This was a lot of fun to make, so I hope you enjoy the video! (For those people who get email subscriptions that, for some dumb reason, don't show the YouTube videos - Click To Watch On YouTube):
I am NOT an organization buff. If you look at my home, you will notice right away that organizing is not my thing. BUT, when I am forced to do it, I do it well (not as well as my mother, but she’s had way more experience than me).
One of the few things that I like to keep organized is the dog stuff.
I am roommates with my sister, Kristyn. She has 6 Golden Retrievers, give or take a couple (she takes in rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes them, and she occasionally has a litter of puppies). Needless to say, the house has often “gone to the dogs”. I never like it when that happens, because then my sister and I can NEVER find what we need.
Kristyn: “Where is the slicker brush?”
And the cat fight begins. Hey! I said we were sisters, not Nobel Peace Price enthusiasts... or winners. (Girls. Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without ‘em.)
To eliminate the unnecessary bickering, I try to keep the dog stuff under control. My sister also tries… Some of the time. I think the rest of the time she gives up trying.
Here is what I do to organize the dogs:
- Eliminate clutter
- Sort supplies into categories
- Make a containment system for each category
The first step is to gather all of your dog supplies into one area. Toys, collars, leashes, crates, treats, clothes, food, paperwork, etc. EVERYTHING.
Once you have it all in one area, sort it out and get rid of this stuff:
- old, broken, and nasty, dirty toys
- broken crates and nasty/ruined bedding
- old, worn, or wrong size collars, leashes and tags
- old, stained, torn, or wrong sized clothing
- disliked or out-of-date treats
- bent, broken, cracked, or just plain nasty grooming tools
- old or disliked shampoos and conditioners
- out-of-date medicines and vitamins
- items from doggies/pets you no longer own
- out-of-date papers, certificates, bills, licenses, etc.
As you do this, you may find it necessary to close your eyes and drop the stuff into the deep, dark blackness of the trash.
“But I could fix this.” or “This belonged to my first dog.” and “A friend/family member gave this to me.” or “But this little dress is so cute!” are NOT acceptable! If it’s broken, throw it away. If it’s old and worn, throw it away. If you don’t like it, throw it away. If it has dead dog’s name on it, throw it away. If it is too big/small for your pet to wear, give it to charity ASAP. You don’t need it cluttering up your life and cramping your psychological peace.
If you really have trouble with eliminating things, you must repeat this to yourself over and over again:
“I must set myself free of these materialistic things. They are cluttering up my life and destroying my peace of mind.”
If it helps, mentally say those words to yourself in Morgan Freeman’s voice. You will obey them without question.
Sort into Categories
Once you have decluttered, then you should start sorting everything that you are keeping into categories.
- Leashes, collars, and tags
- Toys (inside & outside) and clothes
- Grooming supplies
- Medicine and vitamins
- Food and treats
- Crates and bedding
- Paperwork & Medical info
When everything is sorted out, you should move each category to the area where you use it most. Leashes and collars go by the door. Food and treats stay where the dog is fed. Grooming stuff stays near the grooming station. I put the outside toys and Pilot's doggie backpack next to my shoes.
Once you have everything in the proper area, you then need to find a way to contain it all.
Now, most people like to take this moment as an excuse to go buy new baskets, boxes, or containers to put stuff in. Unless you are rich and able to constantly buy that stuff, or you just seriously don’t have any boxes to organize stuff into, then I say DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT fall into that trap. For a trap it is. It quickly turns into a bad habit and a money burner. The only container I suggest you purchase, if you don’t already have one, is a dog food storage container. I've been using a 24 gallon Bergan Stack-N-Stor for several years now and really like it.
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For everything else, though, I suggest that you use what you already have.
Find boxes or baskets that are already empty or can be emptied (another thing to go through, I know, but it’s more junk out of your way!). If you have shelves, clean them off and use them as well!
I like to store our toys in collapsible hampers, laundry baskets, milk crates, or plastic shelving units, all which are readily available in our home. Outside toys stay near the door, while inside toys stay near the beds, crates, or in the living room where the dogs can lay down and play. Bedding and unused crates go on shelves and in the closet. Doggie clothes are thrown into a plastic drawer or hang on hooks. Leashes and collars go in plastic drawers, on hooks, or on a shirt hanger. Medicine and vitamins stays on a shelf, up high, or in the refrigerator. Grooming supplies go into a portable basket. Treats are put into large yogurt/vitamin/cottage cheese containers. Food dishes are placed next to where the food is stored and distributed.
Now, for that pesky paperwork.
In my file box, I have folders dedicated solely for each of my pets… which, currently, consists only of Pilot (I’m going to add a ferret to the mix someday, though). In his folder I store his medical history, vaccination records, medication labels, and stuff like that. For emergency purposes, I have taken pictures of his vacc and med records and stored them on my phone. Kristyn, on the other hand, has folders in her planner for each dog, and she stores all their paper work there. When she takes the dogs somewhere, the planner follows.
Usually, this only takes a maximum of two hours for me to complete – half that, if everything is still in a semi organized state.
To keep it all neat and organized, I make sure things are put up where they belong, and I try to sort through each category once a month. But sometimes we get busy, things don’t get put up where they go, aaaaaaand…. yep. 2 hour organization bash, here we come!
I am really sorry that this post is SO late. I was going to post this before the first of the month, but my internet has been horrible. Like, "horrible" is a serious understatement. I've been unable to do anything online. No Facebook. Very little Twitter. Even less Pinterest. Google hardly works *sheds a tear of sadness*. Right now, I am at a friend's house, mooching off her high speed internet. I have not seen ONE loading sign while I've been at her house. It's so great.
Anyway, the third week of tricks went really, really well for Pilot. As a result, I will be getting his Novice Trick Dog Title very soon! *does happy dance*
In this set of tricks, Pilot had already learned "Roll-Over", but he didn't know any of the others. I had fun finding new ways to drive him and encourage him. As you will probably be able to tell from the video, some of these were a little bit challenging, even after he had learned them. But they have been great exercise for his brain. Learning them has also made him more confident and they have set him up to learn some other great tricks (which we are already in the process of figuring out and memorizing).
Now I am planning on making a series of videos that show how to teach YOUR dog each of the tricks that Pilot has learned. I'm not sure how long it's going to take (considering it can take 3 days to upload a YouTube video on my internet), but if you want to be sure to get in on those when I finish them, subscribe to my YouTube account!
Enjoy the video (FYI, my voice tends to annoy me, so it might annoy you. Therefore, you may want to turn the volume down. Just say'in...):
I have had a few people ask me some questions about Pilot's trick dog training. Although I have answered them individually, I would like to address them publicly, as I'm sure other people have similar questions running through their minds.
What is the point of the Trick Dog Title?
There are a couple of reasons for getting Pilot his TDT:
Do you have to pay for it?
That depends on what you want. You can teach the tricks to your dog for free. You can even print out the list of tricks he needs to learn for free. If you want to attend a Sparks Team on Facebook to get tips and training advice, then that is also free.
If you want to get your dog titled, you have to pay for it. If you want to attend live classes with an instructor who will work one-on-one with you and your dog, you also have to pay for it. If you don't have the books yet, then you will have to pay to get those.
All of those things are legitimate things to pay for. The title comes on nice paper for you to frame. The instructor is spending valuable time with you and your pooch. The books by Kyra Sundance are ALL WORTH BUYING. Next to Caesar Milan, I recommend all of her stuff.
What's the ideal age for a dog to really get into trick training?
This totally depends on the dog. Some get it early, and some get it later.
As a general rule of thumb, most dogs reach full maturity at 2 years of age. This means that, mentally, they are able to understand and retain more. So, I would say that 2 years old is the golden age.
However, the younger that you start a dog to training, the better, because they get used to exercising their brain with you. The younger they are, though, the smaller steps you must take. You can't expect a young dog to learn 15 tricks in a month. Probably not even in two months.
A puppy that is 8 months old or younger doesn't have the attention span or the desire to learn a lot of things. They just want to play games. So you must work with them gradually, repeating the tricks that they have learned over and over again and treating any new tricks like games. If they aren't getting a new trick, just stop and drop it for a few weeks, then try again. Young dogs can't retain quite as much information and they need longer spans of time to memorize what they have learned.
Eventually, one day, a light bulb will turn on in their head and you'll find that training suddenly gets a lot smoother. You'll also find that you are doing more "training" with them, and less "game play". This usually happens around the age of 2 years, in my experience. However, I have seen dogs as young as 11 weeks to 5 months old earn their Novice Trick Dog Titles!
If you would like a book to help you out with training your puppy, "51 Puppy Tricks" by Kyra Sundance is a great one. It shows you how to teach tricks from the puppy's perspective, gives great tips for those having difficulty, and it sorts the tricks according to Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced. You can also find all the same tricks, and more, in "101 Dog Tricks".
Another book that I personally found helpful in starting out Pilot was the "10 Minute Dog Training Games" by Kyra Sundance.
Pilot was about a year old when he was given to me and he still just wanted to play, not learn anything, and he was rather stubborn about sticking to that mentality. Reading this book, I learned to just "play" with him, and when I started playing with him, he started having fun learning. It helped a LOT.
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I'm sure you've heard that you "can't teach an old dog a new trick", right? Well, that saying is wrong. Senior dogs can earn trick titles too! Again, as with a very young dog, it is a slower process. They learn slower and are more stubborn, because they are set in their ways. Also because of their physical limitations, they can't do everything a young dog can, so you must keep this in mind. But, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!
A can of soft dog food being spoon fed to them will probably get their attention. You will have to use a lot of patience, because, by the age of 8, most dogs are used to training humans. Not humans training them.
How much time does it take?
This is completely dependent on the dog and yourself. On average, a dog could learn 15 tricks a month, which means that you could have an expert trick dog in roughly 4 months. On the other hand, for some, like Pilot, it may take a year before he is really ready to start learning.
Some dogs will eat trick training up, because they love the mental challenge and the bonding time with you. Other dogs will enjoy it, but it will take longer for them to mentally ingrain it. Some dogs will think it is a cute past time, but will not feel that they should really devote much of their valuable time and energy to it, except to please you on occasion. Do not feel offended if your dog is like that; it is nothing personal. It is simply the way he/she feels about the activity, and probably any activity that requires the use of their brain and energy. It does not mean that they are dumb, either. It simply means they are smarter than the rest of us and are content with their life at present.
Some breeds of dogs will do better than others, but over all, it depends on your determination and the dog's willingness.
What are some good beginner-level tricks?
All of the trick books by Kyra Sundance have difficulty levels and are listed by Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced, so as to make it easy to choose the difficulty level. They also sort them according to sport and tell you which ones you can build on and which ones have prerequisites. However, I have found that the difficulty level is very little help with Pilot. So, I choose tricks according to what he would like to learn or what he already naturally does or what I am determined for him to learn. For instance, "Roll-Over" is listed as Intermediate, but it has been the easiest trick Pilot has ever learned, and he loves to do it all the time. Thankfully, the book leaves room for you to pick-and-choose.
Aside from teaching your dog basic manners - sit, down, wait, stay, lay down, leave it - some easy tricks to learn are "Take A Bow", "Spin In Circles", "Peek-A-Boo", and "Hoop Jump". (Video Links)
This second week of tricks has been fun! The only one that I had previously taught Pilot was "Paws-Up". I'd also done a little bit of work on "Peek-A-Boo" with him. Otherwise, the other tricks were completely new, and he has really enjoyed learning them, especially the "Leg Weave". I think it is going to be one of his new favorites. It's a workout for me! My short little legs have to really stretch to accommodate him (and he's not even a big dog). Two of my favorite dog breeds are German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.... hahahahaha! Wow. I'm kinda glad he's not either of those sizes.
"Take a Bow" has been incredibly easy to teach. What you see in the video is how you teach it: just lure them down to their elbows and click/reward them as soon as their elbows touch the ground. He still hasn't started doing it on queue alone yet, but he is almost there. It is going to be so stinking cute once he gets it! (Yes, I geek out about my dog...)
By the way, if you have ANY questions regarding the trick dog stuff, feel free to ask! I am putting together a Q&A blog post about it and I would love to see your questions in it!
Anyway, without further ado, here is this week's tricks! Enjoy the video:
As I mentioned in my blog post last week, Pilot is working toward his Novice Trick Dog Title. Through DoMoreWithYourDog.com, I found a helpful group on Facebook who had a great plan to follow to teach my dog 15 tricks in a month (15 tricks are required to earn the title). Pilot already knew all of last weeks tricks, except one, which was the muffin tin game. In that game, I place bits of kibble and treats in the muffin slots and place balls on top of them, so that Pilot has to find the treats. In the video, I could only find 5 balls to place on the muffin tin, so that is all he had to search through. For the actual trick, I am supposed to put balls in all the slots, and have treats hidden under about half of them. So, we are working on acquiring more balls.
I was curious how Pilot would do with the game. He likes tricks, but he’s not exactly motivated when it comes to games, and I wasn’t sure if he would get this game. Lucky for him, he’s a chow-hound and he’s competitive. I showed him the trick with Lady and Hugo, the other two rescue mutts, present. Hugo’s little spaniel nose went right to work and he started finding the treats. Lady caught on and started following along. Pilot, of course, could not be outdone, so he started racing them. He quickly figured out that it was quite rewarding.
I can’t wait for my sister, Kristyn, to try the trick with her Golden Retrievers. They are all tennis ball nuts AND chow-hounds! I think it is going to be hilarious to watch them do it for the first time. The two items combined will surely fill their happy Golden minds with extreme conflict.
Here is a video of Pilot doing his first week tricks. He is already working on his second week tricks, so hopefully we'll have another video for you to watch next week.
Wow, first of the month already? And on a Monday. Ouch.
Well, it is a perfect day to scream, and allow me to be among the first to scream... WHITE RABBIT!
I must be the first person, you know. And, undoubtedly, I am the first person to White Rabbit you. Even if you are reading this late, even if somebody else screamed "White Rabbit!" at you today, I can promise you that I AM the first. Consider the time stamp on this post. What time did it post and/or deliver to your email? 1AM... Yeah. I AM the first person to White Rabbit you this fine 1st day of June.
I rule this game.
Okay, I'll shut up now.
Trick dog? Is that a thing?
Yes it is! And it's gradually becoming a very popular thing among dog owners.
Do you remember Lassie? Benji? Rin-Tin-Tin? They were all "trick dogs". Their owners and trainers taught them a bunch of tricks, which they would preform anywhere, even on camera. Not only did their tricks make them look heroic on screen (and make them rich & popular), but it made them great companions and useful working dogs, and their skills have made millions of people happy for many years.
Now days, it has become really easy to find content that teaches you to train your dog the exact same tricks - all by yourself!
This is what I am doing with Pilot. It's my hope to turn him into a titled trick dog. He's already well on his way!
Teaching dogs to do tricks is fun and rewarding, thus why it's become quite a popular thing for dog owners to do. It turns a dog from "a pet" into "a stinking awesome person I love more than my in-laws".
Okay, not really, but you get the point. Trick training makes your dog a valuable companion, and not just an annoying back yard door bell. Your dog becomes a joy for everyone - friends, family, and strangers - to be around.
Despite what you might think, it's not that hard to train a dog to do tricks, especially if he is willing to learn and you're willing to spend some time with him. It's actually a breeze, what with all the great content available on the internet to help you along.
There are some great books available that teach you how to train your dog. My favorites are by Kyra Sundance from Do More With Your Dog.com. Her books have detailed, bright, colorful pictures. They explain how to do all of the tricks so well, that even the children understand how to do it.
She has a few DVD's now that go along with the books, so you can sit and watch how to do it!
These three books by Kyra are the best, and they are my favorites. They've helped me a lot in my training of Pilot and other dogs (Amazon affiliate Links - read my disclosure policy):
Which dog is a Trick Dog?
Any dog can learn tricks. Rin-Tin-Tin was a German Shepherd. Lassie was a Collie. Benji was a mutt from the pound. So was Old Yeller. Pongo and Purdy were cartoons....
The trick for you is to choose a dog that has a willingness to learn and an eagerness to please.
Most herding breeds, like German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds, crave the mental exercise that trick training provides. Some terrier breeds, like the Rat Terrier and the Parson "Jack" Russell Terrier, thrive on trick training. As far as hunting breeds, I've never met a Labrador or a Golden Retriever who were not eager to please and willing to learn.
Bully breeds, guardian breeds, and little companion dogs are typically more stubborn and it takes a lot more work to convince them to do a trick, but they will do it if you have patience and persistence.
DON'T tell me that you have no patience. Nobody HAS patience. You learn patience.
If you aren't a patient person, get over it and start learning how to be.
Trick training isn't just for the dogs, you know...
The AKC website has great information about all the different groups and breeds of dogs. If you have a favorite breed, you can look it up on the AKC website and learn more, or you can get on YouTube and see if you can find a Dogs 101 video about it. Both give you a great idea of what it takes to properly care for that specific breed, and how easy they are to train.
If you aren't sure what breed of dog might best suite you, AKC has a quiz that you can take which will suggest a few dog breeds that would best fit your home, family, and lifestyle.
If you have a mutt dog and can guess what breeds it has in it, you can try out the AKC breed comparison tool and make a guess as to what independence level your dog will be/is. It's fun to play around with, if nothing else...
Otherwise, if you have a dog that loves to hang out with you, is playful, and wants to please you, then you have the makings of a trick dog. No matter how dumb or smart you might think your dog is, it all depends on how much time and effort YOU are willing to put into it, and how willing your dog is to do it with you.
Pilot as a Trick Dog
Pilot is a little more independent than what is ideal for a trick dog. He has his own ideas about how things should go. But, he is creative and energetic, and he really, really needs the mental exercise. So, before I started teaching him any tricks, I had to spend a lot of time convincing him that he wanted to learn.
Learning manners was the first stepping stone I took to teaching Pilot tricks. Before getting his breakfast or supper, he had to sit politely. Before he could go outside, he had to sit and wait for me to open the door. Before I would open the gate to go for a run, he had to sit. Once he had "sit" mastered, I moved it to "lay down".
Good manners got positive results and made him happy. If he forgot his manners, then nothing would happen and he wouldn't get what he wanted. He started paying attention and listening for queues, because he knew that good things would happen when he did the right thing.
I figured out pretty quickly that I had to give Pilot more exercise, especially before training sessions. I cannot begin to explain how much that helped him to focus. His energy level is set at FORCE-OF-NATURE, and if he doesn't get it out of system, then he won't focus on learning new things. He just becomes this really irritating ball of energy with sharp toe nails.
Seriously, if you have a dog that is out of control, he/she probably just needs more exercise.
The last few months, Pilot has come to the point where he loves to do tricks, anytime, anywhere. This makes me really happy. He is learning new tricks faster, and he enjoys doing his old tricks over and over again.
His favorite trick is "Roll Over". He does it all the time, whether I ask him to or not.
Some days are better than others, and some days are just horrible, but that's why it's called LIFE.
Here is a video I recently made of Pilot getting some exercise, playing with his little sheep friend, and finally doing some tricks with me.
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Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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