Wowzers. You guys have a lot of great ideas. How did I not think of checking YouTube? Like, duh, Kristine.
Self-flagellation aside, I wanted to thank you all for commenting with your favourite tricks and resources! You all rock. The suggestions you came up with were so creative! I love the idea of teaching her to tuck herself in to bed, for example. How precious is that? Now I have no excuse to be lazy. I’d better get on it.
A few of you asked for training tips. Last Christmas all I asked for from my husband were dog trick books. I am lucky enough to get a week off for the holidays every year and by the end of the week I wanted to have an impressive repertoire built up. Of course, laziness and wine kicked in and that didn’t happen. My favourite book is Knack Dog Tricks by Carina MacDonald. I’ve written about it before. The author uses only positive methods, like luring and shaping, and she lays it out so simply. There are tons of awesome photos and little tidbits of information. In fact, the book is so good I wish I’d read it before we brought Shiva home. The advice in there would have helped us immensely those first few months.
In our first obedience class zillions of years ago, the instructor was a big clicker-training fan. Personally, I’m way too clumsy and awkward to work a clicker while holding a leash and trying to reward my dog at the same time. It’s a skill I have yet to master. After I’d dropped the clicker for the sixtieth time, the instructor advised me to switch to using a single word. I chose the word “good”. It’s not ideal as the human voice changes all the time unlike the sound of the clicker, but I find it works okay for us.
To understand the basics of the shaping technique this article by Pat Miller is excellent. It’s a bit long but definitely worth reading if you’re interested in training your dog more seriously. The very first thing I shaped Shiva to do was to lay on her mat on command. It was the coolest thing in the world to me at the time to watch her figure it out. For awhile I didn’t think she was going to get it at all and then wham! Down she went every single time. It made me feel like the best trainer in the world. Until she decided the mat was boring and chased after the cat, that is.
But I digress.
Early on, I am ashamed to admit, we used methods I would never advise anyone else to use. Like physically nudging her over to teach “roll over.” I plead ignorant. It worked but now I know it wasn’t getting her to think on her own. The mental stimulation is what it’s all about, after all. Now we try to use a combination of luring and shaping. Like my hero Zak George says, it’s about finding your dog’s currency. What motivates him or her to work. Once you have that, it’s just fun!
Now I think I am going to take a break. I can’t believe I had the energy to write all that. My practically husband is away on business for two weeks and we are only at the halfway point. Doing double-duty with Shiva for so long is draining in every way imaginable. After walking to the other side of the harbour for agility class this morning I am officially done with dog training for the day. Shiva can eat the couch for all I care. It is time for a nap.