Just a little blog about me and mine.

Teaching a Dog It’s Name October 9, 2008

Filed under: pets — Katie @ 1:21 pm

As I’ve already shared with a few people offline, Oliver is a great dog, but maybe not all that smart.  It may just be that he’s still a little confused and overwhelmed by all the changes in his life recently, or maybe he really is kind of a dummy.  No judgment.  O’Malley is plenty smart and it gets him in trouble, so a dog that just sits there with a blissed-out look on his face is kind of nice.  He just goes with the flow, and as long as he gets food and attention, he’s a happy fellow. 

I do have to confess that he does things that make you judge his mental capacity.  Our family room is pretty small, and all people and dogs need be on the back side of the couch in order to get out the door to the deck because of the way it swings and blocks the path.  Oliver just can’t figure this out, and ends up behind the door when it’s open and can’t get outside.  He gets a sad look on his face and sometimes whimpers a little,  and I have to close the door, let him walk around, and then open the door again so he can go out.  He’s also fairly tall but he struggles to get on the bed (which is very low).  He’s been good about sleeping on his dog bed but does like to snuggle sometimes–we let him because it’s kind of cold in the house and 80 pounds of dog is actually quite warm and cozy. Rather than just taking a small hop, he stretches his paws really far across the bed, putting his entire upper body on it, and then flails his legs trying to pull himself up.  His total height reaches above the bed, so it would really just be a small hop.  Oh well.  At least he’s cute. 

It took from Sunday until Wednesday to teach Oliver that the sound of the clicker means he gets a reward.  I’m still not totally convinced he knows it, but when PL tested him when she got home, it got his attention and he wanted a treat.  Meanwhile, O’Malley is learning to touch his nose to my hand, a command called touch (duh).  You can do a lot with this after they learn it, including teaching them to point at different objects and moving up to frisbee catching.  He still is acting like an excited and totally out of control goofball a lot of the time, so I think we need to try taking him around more people to practice and have friends work with him too instead of just us. 

Now that Oliver knows what the clicker means, the next thing he’ll learn is his name.  We’ve been using his name a lot when we’re just sitting and playing with him, and we finally have the hang of not yelling the dogs’ names when they are in trouble (most of the time anyway).  That was probably the hardest thing for me to learn because my instinct is to yell their name, but you want their name to be a good association for them and never used as a punishment.  Teaching the dog it’s name is one of the first things to do because it’s how you get their attention, and you have to get your dog’s attention to teach them anything else. 

Here’s how Oliver will, probably, hopefully, learn his name in a few days.  With the treats and the clicker, you say your dog’s name.  When they look at you, you click and give them the treat.  You can also practice holding their attention for longer and longer periods of time too.  This will be repeated up to 20 times in each session, with maybe 2 sessions a day.  That’s really less than 10 minutes a day of commitment on your part, and the ideal amount of time for the dog according to the things I’ve read.  

Doing this even for 5 minutes a day is a lot of treats, and even if they are little pieces, that’s still a lot of food.  Oliver needs to put on weight so I’m not too worried about him for now, but I may cut back on the size of O’Malley’s meals a little if he’s getting lots of the treats.


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