DOG PULLS - WHISTLE - STOP
behavior training is both an art and a science. Some experts
say that a dog can have up to an 800-word vocabulary. I’m
not so convinced of the number of words but I can verify
that many of my dogs showed an uncanny ability to figure out
exactly what I was trying to communicate.
One of the best dog training tips I ever got was from a
neighbor when I got my first puppy. I was about 9 years old
and this was the best present my parents had ever given me.
My neighbor was an old hand at training dogs and had living
proof in his own dog.
The first thing I did when I got Skipper (not sure why I
picked that name, it just sounded right) was to rush over
and show my neighbor. His name was hard to pronounce so
every one in the neighborhood just called him Mr. D. So Mr.
D was kind enough to run through some dog training basics
and taught me a lot about how to take care of my new puppy.
Mr. D’s dog was a Jack Terrier called Willie. Willie could
do any trick and would respond to almost any request. Willie
pretty much had the run of the neighborhood and was known by
all. In those days people just let their dog out since there
were no leash laws and no one complained. My Mom often gave
Willie any leftovers or a soup bones when he would stop by
for a visit.
So when I showed up with Skipper, Willie was as excited as I
was to have a new playmate. Skipper was a Springer Spaniel
that we had rescued from the city dog pound. Skipper was
probably about 6 months old but we never knew for sure since
the dog pound didn’t know when he was born.
The first order of business was your basic dog house
training. I got off pretty easy on this phase since Skipper
seemed to prefer going outside to do his bathroom chores.
From day one Skipper would go to the door and want to be let
out when he needed to go.
Mr. D explained that the two most important things about any
kind of dog training were rewards and repetition. The reward
could be as simple as praise or a pat on the head. And that
I should spend at least 30 minutes a day working with
Skipper on anything I wanted to teach him to do.
So each day I would spend 30 minutes teaching Skipper how to
stay, sit, fetch, and come when I called. Willie would come
over and help too. I don’t know if they actually
communicated but having another dog around that already knew
all these tricks had to be beneficial.
Skipper also showed a high aptitude for retrieving. Of
course I didn’t know at the time that he was a natural born
retriever and took credit for being a great and skilled dog
trainer. Once I got the basics down I worked on teaching
Skipper how to heel, play dead, and not to jump on people.
Skipper started learning on his own too. When I was at
school or somewhere that Skipper couldn’t go, my mother
would be his next choice in companion. In those days we had
what was called a Bookmobile that was a bus from the local
library that would come to the neighborhood twice a week.
Skipper figured out that when the Bookmobile came he got to
go for a walk with my mother. So like clockwork, Skipper
would come to get my mother when it was about 2:00 pm on
Tuesday and Friday. Skipper loved to go since he got to sit
at the door and welcome every one that showed up each day.
Skipper also knew when it was Saturday. Saturday was
grocery-shopping day and when my mother went to the store
she always asked the meat department for some bones. Skipper
knew that he would get his favorite snack on Saturday
afternoons when my mother came back from the store.
For the next 14 years Skipper was my constant companion and
escort. Skipper was an exceptional dog in disposition,
learning ability, and affection. I also had a big advantage
having a helpful neighbor and watching him and his dog. Mr.
D and Willie were both a huge help and positive influence.
Dog training does require some dedicated effort but the
rewards are more than worth the investment. My current dog,
Tuxcitto, is a 24/7 project since he is a Border Collie and
full of vim and vigor. But Tuxcitto is a lot like Skipper in
that he is a fast learner and extremely affectionate