Archive for the ‘trick’ Category


She played me. The Labradork has been playing me. I am a sucker. For three years we’ve worked spin. Some days were better than others (faster, tighter spins). But then there were the days the command didn’t seem enough and I’d have to get a hand signal as well. Those days the spin was half hearted, slow, and not very tight, and I would just cheer her on, encourage her, or sometimes bring the treat out to lure her into a better spin.

Because of course the problem had to be my training right? If she wasn’t doing it correct, even after all that time, I must not have trained it right. She must not understand. So I’d take a few steps back. I’d work it again. Bring out the treat (read bribe). And then one day something inside me questioned. She’s almost three years old. This is a simple behavior. Could I seriously be that bad of a trainer that she really didn’t understand what I was asking? That had been my assumption. It had to be me. And it was, just not like I thought.

The other night I filled up her food bowl with dinner. I held it in my hand and without a signal said, “Spin.” It was like a fan had turned on as she whipped around in tight circle almost nose to tail. This sweet, innocent little Labradork had been playing me! She’d figured out the least amount of effort she could put into this behavior and still get the treat! Why put in effort if mom will just bring out the treat and lead me around by the nose and then still give me the treat? Mom’s a sucker!


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The Box Game and Patience

I tried the box game with the Labrador once before. It didn’t work. She sat in front of me, watching me, waiting for me to give her some sort of command. I was convinced I’d screwed up somewhere along the line, having not introduced this game/concept earlier. Convinced that I’d somehow taken away my dog’s ability to offer behaviors, and from here on out I’d have to teach her everything by luring. What can I say? I’m still new to this!

Today I decided to try again. And this time I decided to be patient. At first the Labrador behaved like last time. She sat in front me, looking from to the treats, eagerly waiting for me to give a command. I didn’t. She laid down, hoping eagerly for a treat. Nope didn’t happen. She moved into heel position. Nothing. I waited, keeping my eye ever on the box, until finally she looked at it! Click! Treat!

And then she went back to sitting, and watching me, waiting for a command. I think this is where I gave up last time. This time I waited. I realized that she was offering me behaviors, just so far ones we’d trained and I’d given a lot of reinforcement for. But the ability to offer behaviors was there. I just had to wait. I had to be patient. And she looked at the box again! Click! Treat!

Oh but then the idea is to up the criteria. So the next time she looked at the box there was no click. There was no treat. She defaulted back to trained behaviors — moving back into a very nice heel position. And yet no treat was forthcoming.

Again I waited. And I’m so glad I did. It was so amusing to watch as she offered behaviors. Nose to box. Click! Treat! Jump over the box (that one had me giggling). Click! Treat! One paw in box! Then we got two! Then it was back leg in box. Then the box got picked up and brought to me. Then we worked up to three legs in the box!

I haven’t broken my dog. I just need to learn patience. Amazing how so often we think we’re teaching them, but really they are teaching us.

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The date of our next trial has been set.  It’s several months off, which gives us not only a lot of time to practice and prepare, but to save up.  This one is closer to home, so no hotel room should be needed, but both dogs will be entered.  Or at least that’s the current plan. 

The Labrador and I are currently doing Flyball classes and Agility classes.  We are hoping to squeeze enough money out of the budget to register for an Intermediate Obedience class later this month to return to working on our CGC.

My nights are filled with downs and stays, comes and overs, stands and sits.  But sometimes you just want to have a little fun!  So, the other day we started working on play dead.  The command we are using is “Bang!”  I’m hoping to have a rudimentary understanding trained by this weekend when we are having company.  It does seem that as impressive as the stays, downs, comes and sits are friends and family always seem more impressed and amused by the silly tricks! 

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The Labrador won her second prize today (the first being her STAR Puppy Certificate). Today she won third place in an Obstacle Course competition! This was over obstacles she’d never seen before like a A-frame, see-saw, and weave poles! I am so very proud of her, and amazed at what this dog is willing to do when I ask her. There were also several jumps involved which she flew over.

Though we did not win, she excelled in the Obedience Class as well, doing everything I asked of her with a wag of her tail. I will admit we were outclassed in the Trick Competition. Our hoola-hoop jump just couldn’t stand up to a back flipping dog, and a dog that could read. But, that she did it in public, in a new location without hesitation when I asked — well that’s a win in my book!

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