Friday, October 3, 2008

Fridays are Golden

Ellie and Lucy are the first dogs we have had who do not perform any parlor tricks. They are plenty smart enough to learn them. We just never saw the need for them. Perhaps it is because our other dogs grew up with our children. Perhaps it's because our other dogs were smaller. Somehow parlor tricks are much cuter with smaller dogs and may make larger dogs look goofy.

We do have a lot of house rules for our dogs. Some of the rules are designed for making us more comfortable, and some of them are for their safety. The rules are so consistently applied that the dogs no longer need instruction to follow them.

When the door bell rings, the dogs run to the door and automatically sit and stay while we open the door and greet visitors, sign for packages, etc. They know to stay even if the visitor goes into a high-pitched voice with something like, "Oh, how cute you are!"

When we first started training Ellie (who is older), we quickly learned that we needed a specific word, otherwise not often used, to allow her to leave the stay. "All right," "Okay," or even "good girl" are too often used and she would break the stay. So we use the word, "release." The dogs know that this is the key word that allows them to move.

"Wait" is another very useful command. Basically, "wait" means, "stop what you are doing and wait for me to direct you." One of the most frequent uses of "wait" is at the door. Again, the dogs know this so well we rarely have to say it. The dogs NEVER go out a door ahead of us. It's that simple. So, whenever we go outside, on leash or off, they wait at the door until we allow them to follow us.

The "wait" command is used when getting out of the car as well. The dogs know that they cannot leap from the car when we open the door. They must wait until we grab the leash, or otherwise invite them to jump down. Each dog knows that she has to wait. Just because the first dog has gotten out doesn't mean the other one can jump out.

Here Ellie waits to get out of the car.

Lucy waits her turn.
Another often used and helpful command is, "Go to your mat." We have two large dog beds in the great room. This command means that each dog must go to one or the other of the beds and stay there until released. The dog can lie down, or sit, but must not leave the mat until allowed to do so.
-----We use this command often when we have guests who simply can't behave themselves. Some guests will slap their knees, inviting the dogs to jump on them. Others will actually give a dog food from the snack table. So we simply send to dogs to their mat(s) to stop this action. Occasionally they will "accidentally" break this command. If they snooze, or lie for a long time, they forget that they are there because they were told to be there. A simple "Go to the mat" puts them back in place.

Going to the mat.

One thing never needs a command. That is, "Veg out in the sun."
We are certainly not dog trainers, and we appreciate that many people do not feel the need to control their dogs to the extent we do. Our dogs do not feel oppressed, and they love us to death. We do play with them and have fun with them. We often sit on the floor with them and let them put their heads in our laps. But there is a time and place for good manners and we are glad to say our dogs have pretty good ones.
Another Friday is here all too quickly. Despite all previous promises, we still have no gasoline. My husband got to a station yesterday. He put in his credit card and started pumping. He pumped eight tenths of a gallon and the pump went dry. Fortunately, he was later able to get more gasoline. Amazing how giddy a full tank of gasoline makes you feel.
I need to be driving in the mountains!
But we are blessed and ever so much better off than most other people. After all, we have two lovely Golden Girls to amuse us while we are stuck.
Have a wonderful and safe weekend. Indulge yourself at least once each day.


Dog_geek said...

We have many similar rules here at our house. Dogs tend to thrive on fair rules and structured lives. The rule about not getting out of the car until released is sooo important - it could be a lifesaver!

Cheryl said...

Hi....your post of course sums up how dogs should be....part of the pack....and you are their pack leader. I have to say I follow the guidelines as much as I can....BUT I have a little terrier and I love her on my lap especially when there is a roaring fire in the inglenook.....perfect..

Your dogs are gorgeous and a credit to you....they look happy and secure......

KGMom said...

The golden girls make Fridays very special.
I wonder if I could get the front door "stay" to work on my dog. She goes wild at the front door bell ringing. The odd thing is, I have no idea why it started. I don't make a fuss, I don't freak--but she sure does. So much so, that I have taken to opening the door to the garage, and letting her run in there (with the outside door closed, of course) so she stops barking.
Your girls are much better behaved than my girl.

The Birdlady said...

Gee Carolyn, I think our Emily needs to come for a visit!

KatDoc said...

I love, love, LOVE dog owners who understand the concept of dog manners. I don't teach parlor tricks - things like "roll-over" or "play dead," but my dogs have huge vocabularies and know all sorts of commands that make our every day lives so much easier.

I personally love "wait." The way I explain it, "Stay!" means "Absolutely DO NOT MOVE from this spot!" while "wait" means "hang out in this general area until I tell you it is OK to leave." "Wait" for getting out of the car is priceless. With two dogs, if they both get out at the same time, you struggle to get hold of leashes, collars, etc., and a loose dog could be bad news.

I also love "get back," which I usually use to mean "get back from the door while I walk through it with an armload of groceries, which may or may not include dog treats."

I use "OK" for my release word. After I started using it, I learned that it wasn't the best choice because it comes up too often in casual conversation. It comes so naturally to me now that I can't seem to change. I tried "Free!" for a while, but it is hard to teach an old dog trainer new commands.

Cheryl: If in your world it is OK to invite a small dog on your lap, then those are your rules and there is nothing wrong with them. Dogs can learn anything, as long as the rules are consistent and fair.

KGMom: *MY* dogs go nuts when a door bell rings on TV. We don't HAVE a doorbell, and never have had one. How do they know that "doorbell" = "pizza delievery"? Your guess is as good as mine, LOL!

Shellmo said...

I loved reading about how you trained your dogs - all very smart! I hope to be getting one soon - on the list for a bernese mountain dog.

Heaven Scent said...

I come and check your blog every once in a while and love reading about Lucy and Ellie. What gorgeous dogs! I am embarrassed to say that I know the importance of dogs with good manners and mine are not totally there. This post is a good reminder to get working on it!!! I sure hope the gas shortage is fixed in your area soon. We don't have any problems here and I just cannot understand why there are pockets with this problem and other parts of the country are fine. In fact, our prices are lower than they have been for a long time. Good luck and enjoy your lovely weather and beautiful dogs.

Jayne said...

I think it's imperative that all dogs, esp. larger dogs, have good manners, or else there can be chaos. All dogs want to feel safe and rules help them to thrive. Your girls are true ladies, and it's a pleasure to hear about them and see them looking so lovely!

Ruth said...

It is essential for large dogs to be well trained, especially when it comes to jumping up on people. You have done an exceptional job and your dogs are happier for it. I wish owners of small dogs were as diligent. They are often annoyingly ill mannered and have been allowed to get away with it because of their size.

NCmountainwoman said...

Donna - I'm sure you can train your dog not to bark at the door. It would be pretty labor intensive and only you can decide if it's worth it. I would enlist the help of a neighbor. Have the dog on leash near the door before the neighbor rings the bell. Otherwise, the dog will be in high gear from the outset. Have the neighbor ring the door and IMMEDIATELY correct the dog.

When the dog is calm, reward and try again. You will have to repeat this very often. I wouldn't even open the door during these exercises.

Then, have the dog further from the door, but next to you. You might need to communicate by cell phone to coordinate when the neighbor should ring the doorbell. The key to the exercise is to prevent the dog from going into high gear immediately. You will need to do this in every room in the house, since the dog may not understand that the command applies to every room.

Next, take the dog to the door with you while she is still calm. Put her at "sit/stay" when the doorbell rings and open the door slightly. If the dog breaks the command, immediately put her back rather than opening the door.

After she is consistent with the command on leash, try the same exercises off leash.

This might be a long process, but I'm a believer that even the worst habits can be controlled with a lot of effort.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a dog trainer.

NCmountainwoman said...

Dog geek - I agree wholeheartedly. I get very upset when I see people let their dogs jump from the car.

Cheryl - If I had a little terrier, I would have her on my lap, too. That's one of the benefits of having a small dog.

Kathi - We also have a "back-off" command. We use it when the dogs are violating our personal space or are otherwise underfoot.

Shelley - Those are wonderful dogs. I'm sure you will love having one.

Heaven Scent - I think everyone has to decide how much control they want to have (other than safety issues). Some people are very happy with little discipline and that's fine. I think everyone should decide on a "comfort" level and train accordingly.

Jayne - This is the only way it works for us.

Ruth - Definitely yes! I watched a man walking his little terrier. A friend stopped to talk with the man from his car. The little dog barked incessantly and constantly jumped up and down against the car. It drove me nuts.

Mary said...

Our gas situation should improve this week. One out of five stations have gas and I was fortunate to buy 3/4 tank a week ago. I'm sure the gas will head your way soon...

All of the commands you use for your sweeties are ones my daughter uses for her bulldog and boxer mix. For "Go to your mat", she commands, "Place." And they go and wait and stay until she releases them with "Free!" I admire dogs are well suited for a circus, you know.

Cicero Sings said...

Wow, still so little gas!

I think well behaved dogs are the way to go! They need their boundaries ... just like kids! ... and are better off for them.