Thursday, January 16, 2014

Learning to Speak Doggie

As you've probably noticed, people and dogs do not speak the same language.  Dogs communicate with each other primarily with body language but they also make sounds to communicate.  They are not native English speakers, however.  Unfortunately, people are not born knowing how to speak doggie.  As often happens when people that speak different languages, sometimes misunderstandings occur when people and dogs have trouble communicating.

Knowing how to communicate with a dog is very important if you're going to train the dog to do something.  There are a number of things that I know Isaac would be capable of doing but he can't do them at this moment because I haven't communicated the idea to him.  For instance, Isaac turns on lights, but he is  not trained to turn them off.  I don't need him to turn them off, I can do that myself, so his trainer did not train him to turn them off.  He could turn them off, though.  I can't just point at the light switch and tell him to turn them off, though. because he would not understand what I was saying.

There have been several times in our relationship that I have wanted Isaac to do something and he wasn't doing it and I got frustrated and felt like he wasn't cooperating with me.  Then I realized it wasn't that he did not want to do the task, he wasn't refusing to do it.  He didn't understand what I wanted.  And that is not his fault.  If I want to tell him to do something, I need to tell him in a way that he can understand.

Something I want to train Isaac to do is to curl up in a small space.  That's important sometimes when I'm out and about with him.  If we eat at restaurant with small tables, for instance, he needs to fit himself under that small table, and make sure his feet or his tail is not sticking out where people could step on him or trip over him, and make sure there is still enough room for the people eating at that table to put their feet down.  Someone suggested having his lie down and curl up in a box, because the sides of the box would require him to curl up.  She recommended starting with a pretty big box and then moving to a smaller box once he got the hang of it.

Well, I tried that the other day.  Isaac did not understand what I wanted him to do.  When I point at the bathtub and say "Get in" he gets in, so that's what I did with the box.  He just looked confused.  Then he picked up the box and tried to give it to me.  I put the box between us and told him to come to me.  He did, but not by stepping into the box.  He walked around the box.  I put the box between the couch and the coffee table, so there was no room to walk about it, and tried again.  He walked around the coffee table to approach me from the other side.  I was finally able to get him to put his front feet in the box but that was it.  He just didn't understand what I wanted.

I talked to someone I know that has trained dogs professionally and she gave me some suggestions, so I think Isaac and I will try the box again tomorrow.  Hopefully I will communicate more clearly then so he can understand me.

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