Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Repetition: The Key to Successful Training

The morning routine around here has been the same for a long time: get out of bed, use the bathroom, let the dogs out, give them a treat when they come back in, grab a protein bar and a bottle of water, and sit down in front of the computer to read while I eat breakfast. A couple of weeks ago the dogs added another item to that list, and it, too, has become a regular part of our routine.

While I'm sitting at the computer, Levi and Gimpy come running around the corner together--it's always both of them--put their front paws first on my knees as they rise up on their hind legs, and then on my shoulders. The trick to getting them down without using force, I've discovered, is to ask one question: "What?" As soon as they hear that word, they jump down, turn around, and walk away, watching me over their shoulders to make sure I'm following them. They go only a few feet away, then promptly drop into a sitting position and look back and forth from my face to the basket of dog toys that sits on top of Gimpy's crate.

The first time they did this, I was charmed by their collaborative efforts. I'd love to know how they communicate with each other when they come up with ideas like this. I still find it charming, in fact, so I'm always quick to move the basket down to the floor for them and wait while they choose a toy. Nine times out of ten they each choose a tennis ball, even if there are already half a dozen identical balls scattered around the den in plain sight, but they check out all the toys carefully before making their decisions.

Gimpy seems to get more excited than Levi does about the selection process. He watches Levi closely, waiting to choose his own toy until he sees what Levi takes out of the basket. Once Levi has made his choice, Gimpy quickly picks a toy of his own. Levi takes his toy to the futon, Gimpy takes his into the crate. About a minute later, Levi leaves his toy on the futon, jumps down and walks away. That's Gimpy's signal to drop his toy onto the bedding in the crate and go get whatever toy Levi left on the futon. And then--if you have dogs of your own, you already know this--Levi goes into the crate and gets Gimpy's toy.

That's it. Every day, like clockwork. They steal toys from each other all day long, of course, but they only ask me to get the toy basket down once a day. Since there are almost always other toys scattered around, I don't think this exercise is as much about their needing something different to play with as it's about training me to perform consistently at their command.

I don't know what kind of grade Levi and Gimpy would give me, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Levi (rear) and Gimpy


  1. They certainly do have a communication and behavior pattern! Bless them. And you... you're learning their teachings quite well. ;-)

  2. I LOVE this! It's so neat how they train us! I think we need photos of this process!

  3. Duly Inspired, I'd love to know how they communicate. They team up on me in so many different ways that I know there's some kind of discussion ahead of time.

    Holly, I'll see if I can get some photos, although I suspect that the presence of the camera may interrupt the natural flow of the process. Also, it's hard to take pictures when four big dog paws are pressing down on your shoulders and rolling you in your chair. :)


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