LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fridays are Golden

We are by no means dog trainers. That said, we have taken every dog we have owned to puppy kindergarten and then to a series of obedience training classes. More importantly, we have done the class assignments and worked with each dog on the training. Keeping your pet well-behaved is not a one time event. It takes ongoing work on your part.

One of the first commands one teaches a dog is "sit." This seems an extremely simple command and shouldn't ever cause any difficulty, right? Wrong. Some dogs (like our Lucy) have a dozen questions about the command. "Oh, you mean NOW? Oh, you mean HERE? Oh, you mean keep sitting? Oh, you mean watch you? Oh, you mean I can't just get up when I want?" She had similar questions about every command. We had to use a more stern training approach with her to let her know these commands were not optional and not open to discussion, especially with her.

While not trainers, we have learned one very important thing about training. Dogs simply do not translate activity allowed (or disallowed) in one area to the same behavior in another spot. For example: we expect our dogs to do a "sit/stay" when a guest is at the door. We first trained them at the front door. Surprisingly enough, if someone came to the garage door the dogs did not understand they had to sit/stay. So if you want to train your dogs to sit/stay at the door, you have to repeat the training at every outside door in your house. And if you move to a new house, you have to repeat the training at every door in the new house.




We also need to give the command from other areas as well. They obey the command if we are also inside the house with them. So we have to teach them the command applies even if we are the ones outside the door. Here they are at sit/stay while I am outside the door.


"Down/stay" is a natural follower of sit/stay. If the dogs are expected to remain for any real length of time or if we have children involved, we give them the down/stay command for two reasons. First, it's more comfortable. More importantly, it puts the dogs in a true submissive position. Some dogs have great difficulty with the down/stay command. It just goes against their nature.


The sit/stay command must work outdoors as well. Periodically, we will simply tell one or both of the dogs to sit/stay while they are doing different activities. This helps to reinforce to them that sit/stay means sit/stay no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. Here is Lucy on a bench. She obviously doesn't like it that I told her to sit. She looks as if to say, "I have no clue what you are thinking."


Before we went inside, I told them to sit/stay on the porch. They both turned toward me and sat down. From the looks on their faces, I don't think they like it very much either.
Even these two basic commands require regular re-inforcement. Our dogs don't really forget these commands, it's that sometimes they would just prefer to ignore them. That's why we regularly repeat them and let them know they are not optional no matter the circumstances. Consistency is an absolute. It may seem silly to some to require that a dog consistently follow commands. Perhaps it is with a command like "sit." But if you have a command to bring your dog to your side it must be obeyed. Dogs don't know that some commands are more important than others. And their very lives may depend on whether or not they will follow your command to come to them away from danger if they are off lead. So, like other commands, you must practice when the command is unnecessary so the dog knows to follow when it is. BTW: "come" is not usually the best command when the dog must return to your side. That command has almost always been corrupted within weeks of bringing your puppy home. Use a new command that the dog has not heard before when you teach him or her to come to your side immediately.


I'm showing you this photograph because our dogs usually look so well groomed. It's nearing bath time, and we've had some rain so the girls have been wet a couple of times. This is what they look like before they are brushed. Poor little parallel strays


Let's all enjoy these last golden weeks of summer. We have a lot to look forward to and so much to be thankful for.
Have a wonderful weekend. Look up an old friend, visit a lonely relative, and do one little special thing for your family and one for yourself.

25 comments:

George said...

It was extremely interesting to read how the Golden Girls have come to be such well-behaved ladies. But I must admit they both look unhappy at having to sit at the porch.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I would have to say that you are very smart when it comes to training. I have tried, then gave up, then tried again with my boxers. I have them trained to 'stay' in the yard when I cross the street with garbage/mail, but can't get them to sit when guests come over...you have given me hope though that I can try some more. :)
I think they look adorable even when in need of a bath..of course, I cant smell them though. SUZ

GoldenSamantha said...

Boy! Mom has enough trouble with me as their single target - you are doing ve-rry well with TWO!!! You ladies are very obedient (and such beautiful) girls! Sorry it's been so long since we've visited!
Hugs xo
Sammie

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Carolyn...I doubt there are two more beautiful OR well behaved girls to be found anywhere!! :)

Betsy from Tennessee said...

You really need to write a book, Carolyn. I would love dogs SO much more if their owners would do what you do (train them, give them boundaries, keep them clean and brushed, respect company, etc.)... You and hubby have done a tremendous job. Wish ALL dog owners would do this.

Hugs,
Betsy

Shelley said...

The girls look beautiful as always! I love your tips - I have just learned that i have to teach Scout to sit in every room of the house and outside - LOL! She will be going to puppy kindergarten in 3 weeks - by then she'll have had the last of her shots and I won't have to worry about her being exposed to Parvo. And you are right about the lay down command - that is the one she resists me on the most.

The Bug said...

Great post - love the look on their faces...

1000 Goldens said...

Such good girls! I love how you describe Lucy's line of questioning, it is so true!

scienceguy288 said...

The one dog I owned when I was a kid never got obedience training. Pity, as I missed a good hiking partner.

KGMom said...

Always love to read about the girls.
I should have done what you do--been very faithful in training. The one thing I do insist on, with our dog, is that she doesn't eat until I tell her too. She knows too as she sometimes tries to eat something she has picked up outside (e.g. grass clumps) and she HIDES it in her mouth.

JeanMac said...

Wonderful lesson. We had a great Shepherd, Kelly, who was trained. We felt the stay command was one of the most useful for many reasons.
Your dogs are so beautiful.

Thistlebrooms said...

Always Love to read about your Lovely Ladies Carolyn...

Well behaved dogs are always a blessing...
Patience is a Virtue...

I used to look for my 'Golden Girl' in my back yard in the Autumn, seems she used to blend in with the foliage!!!

Enjoy your last 'Golden Days'...

My Best...Marilyn

Jayne said...

I think especially if you have larger dogs, you HAVE to have control. I think you all are such responsible pet owners and are to be congratulated for working so hard to make sure they are healthy and happy. Have a wonderful weekend Carolyn. :c)

The Thundering Herd said...

I firmly believe that while a dog may be unhappy with any given command at any given time, they are considerably happier knowing that you have established a loving firm home with boundaries. That makes them feel safe and secure, something dogs crave to be happy.

P.S. - just a little more challenging in my case with a breed that is actually bred to disagree with a command in the event of a dangerous situation (being told to mush across thin ice, for example, the breed is actually to think of a better solution). I can see their little wheels turning trying to decide if it is "safe" to follow the command.

Dog_geek said...

Good advice! I always tell my students that they need to practice in many different locations because dogs do not generalize well at all. In agility, every obstacle needs to be worked in both directions, with handler on the left, handler on the right, handler behind the dog, and handler ahead of the dog. If the handler is always in the same location relative to the obstacle, the dog may only perform it correctly when the handler is in the right spot!

Sam said...

The fact that dogs don't generalize is such a funny thing. It's coincidental you posted this now, as I was just telling someone similar - about how if you teach a dog to only sit in one location, they'll think that "sit" can only happen in that spot, so to speak.

Funny creatures they are.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

I absolutely love the photos of your Golden Girls! They look like such well-behaved animals. It sure takes time and patience to teach dogs to behave. My black lab minds sometimes, other times, he just ignores me. I know it's my fault. I'm like a mother, I think everything he does is cute and laughs when he's naughty. That's not the way to train a dog to behave. You have done such an excellent job training your beautiful animals.

Cicero Sings said...

This puppy training is really something. It sure does take persistence and follow through! It means getting up off your duff when you don't feel like it!!!

Janie said...

Interesting observations about training, and having to learn over again at each door.
The girls don't look happy to obey, but they certainly do what they're told very well.
Good girls, and good trainer!

Bird Girl said...

You really are a wonderful writer, Carolyn! I enjoyed this post about dog training - and I do wish others would put some kind of effort into the training of their dogs. Nothing worse than a dog that jumps on you and scratches you with powerful feet and force!
You've done a wonderful job so that these girls are as beautifully behaved as they LOOK!
Have a good one!

Beth said...

Such lovely and well-mannered ladies you have there! You are certainly right that training is an ongoing process with dogs. We had a Welsh Corgi once that was very well-behaved, but would always assert some small act of rebellion in his obedience. It was really funny. If we told him to stay in a certain room of the house (when we were mopping, for example) he would stay, but would always sit in the doorway with one foot over the line.

By the way, I loved your pictures of the pileated woodpecker fledgling. Absolutely wonderful. And I am so jealous! :-)

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments.

George - They really don't like to be told to sit when there's no one around and they don't see any reason for the command.

Suz - It's never too late.

Sammie - We've missed you as well. For the longest time my browser wouldn't allow me to access your blog.

Shelley - When we took the girls to kindergarten, each was far more interested in the owners than the other dogs.

1000 Goldens - Interesting that Ellie simply obeyed the commands once she learned them. Lucy wanted to know all the reasons behind them.

Donna - Our Lucy is notorious for picking things up. Then she comes to us to take it from her.

Herd - Wow! I hadn't thought of that. I'm sure that other breeds, such as those trained in rescue also have to have more free-rein in the decisions.

Dog geek and Sam - We were so surprised to learn that dogs don't often generalize commands and that most new situations required reinforcement of old commands.

Cicero - Oh yes, a new puppy is practically a full-time job. We each took vacations one after the other to be with each puppy.

Beth - Lucy is exactly the same way. One little defiant paw must exceed the limits while the rest of her is theoretically doing the correct thing. And she does indeed have a sense of humor.

KB said...

I could not agree more about the context-specific learning of dogs. I think that this detail derails many owners who've never been told about it. For me, recalls are the single most important training - and I practice them in every conceivable situation for all the reasons that you give!

Your golden girls look like perfect angels!

Twisted Fencepost said...

Behaving or not, they are both beautiful critters.
I really must get busy with training mine. Maybe now that summer is winding down, I can find the time for this.

Barb said...

Wonderful! Your girls are very photogenic - even when a bit rumpled.