Sunday, February 10, 2008

New tasks

This is the time of year when my dogs always start to get really bored with life and especially me. Wrap, of course, is just happy to be warm and allowed to sleep most of the time. She had no complaints about retirement.

Sanity. Ah, Sanity. That is a whole other story. So in the interest of staying sane and not allowing insanity to take over we have embarked on learning a new set of commands. More for fun than work and more brain than physical exercise for both of us.

First I threw her a curve by messing with her morning routine. Instead of going downstairs, moving from kennel to kennel and collecting the dirty pans and then bringing them upstairs to the kitchen like she has been doing for more than a year I started the changes.

The new commands I'm going to teach are: drop it and look up. Once she understands them we will have a much better way of communicating. I started by staying downstairs with her and as she would fetch a pan and head for the hallway and stairs, I gave her a sit command. She acted as if I was crazy, but did turn and sit facing me.

Next I told her to drop it and helped her release the pan. Clang, it hit the floor. Didn't matter because I was already praising her for letting go. Then I told her to fetch a pan and had to handle it as a directed retrieve, while using my cane to prevent her from just picking up the one she had just dropped. Six repeats later we had all the dirty pans on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.

At that point I went on upstairs to the kitchen and had her finish the job by bringing all the pans to me. We have actually been working on this for the past couple of weeks and the "drop it" command is slowly coming along in the food pan context. So last week I moved it along.

I started insisting she fetch all the toys scattered around the house and put the back in the toy box. That was even more difficult an idea for her to grasp than the pans.

"What? Pick up the toys and put them away? That's your job, not mine," sez she.

"Wrong," sez I. "You got them out so you can bloody well start putting them away."

It's coming along, but slowly. Yesterday I added "look up". Mostly that got started because I was in my lounge chair; my bottle of coke on the coffee table on the other side of the room and I really hurt too much to get up. So why not send Sanity?

The why is because if I say "fetch" she will move out in the direction I am facing or in the direction my hand has signaled and check the floor or ground. The idea of looking up for things not on the ground doesn't enter her mind. It just seemed to me she was solid enough in her understanding of "fetch", "sit", "turn" commands that I should be able to teach "look up" and not even leave my chair.

More later on how I'm teaching "look up".

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