Considering that their owner is a dog trainer, Parker and Skye really don't know an abundance of commands. I've been expending their vocabulary this summer, but with my busy work schedule and their busy social lives, we don't practice a lot. In the past week I've been thinking about the two commands that I'm so glad Skye knows.
|If only we could do this every day!|
Back in the dark days, when Skye was an uncontrollable tornado of insanity, I learned about using a tug toy to help teach her to focus. You may be thinking, as I did, that tug of war is not a game you play with your dog. It teaches them to be dominant, or possessive, or pushy. When done correctly, it does none of these things.
Skye and I began to play the trade-up game with her toys. We'd tug and tug, having a ball seeing who will let go first. Then, out of heaven itself, came a yummy treat. Skye had a choice- keep tugging, or spit out the toy to get the treat? Other than presenting her with the choice, I did nothing. I didn't let go of the toy, but I didn't try to pry it out of her little mouth either. I waited silently. As time went on, Skye made her decision faster and faster. When my free hand came out as a closed fist (our hand signal) she spit that toy out before you could say "I win." Because really, we both won.
These days Skye will "get it" "tug it" and "drop it" when I ask her to, just for the chance to tug it again. The tug is the reward, but like any fun game there are rules. Teaching Skye the rules of tug has helped give her an outlet, especially during agility. When she is too wound up or there is a lot of distraction, a quick game of tug gets her back on track. I keep a tug toy in the car so that at any time I can get a reward for Skye. I've started bringing it on our off leash walks because it is more valuable than a treat, so when we see a dog coming our way and Skye has to choose between coming to me or running ahead, I don't have to worry that I'll lose. In a good game of tug, there are no losers.
|I don't need to tug a stupid toy to be a winner.|
Skye learned to bump her nose to my hand during our first agility class. It was supposed to help her with her contacts. That was a big fail. But the behavior itself is useful in so many ways in the real world as well. Asking Skye to touch means asking her to willingly turn away from something else in order to perform a simple task. In the waiting room at the vet, for example, I use it as a game to keep Skye from getting anxious. I move my hand from side to side, up and down, and have her touch it for a treat. On leash it's a good way to get Skye to ignore a distraction without having to put any pressure on her leash. Again, it's all her choice, but it's also a specific task.
Touch is also a good behavior to use off leash. Sometimes, Skye has an off day. I say "here" and she turns into the pokey puppy, dragging her feet. Sometimes she decides the dog up the path is too tempting because I waited too long to call her. In these cases I'll call her to touch and it's a whole new ballgame. Touch is fun; it's a game and a challenge. When she has a running start I like to put my hand up high and make her jump to touch it. Is it an essential command every dog should know? Pssshhhh, no. But it's one I use often with great results.
Which words in your dog's vocabulary do you use the most?
|I'm sexy and I know it.|
Skye has surgery on Thursday to remove her busted tooth and I'm maid of honoring a wedding this weekend. So you may not hear much from us (surprised?), but I'll take all the happy thoughts you can give us!