Thursday, October 15, 2009

A demo dog speaks her mind

Every week for my dog training apprenticeship, I need to teach an exercise, and this week's exercise is "wait." This exercise differs from "stay" in that "wait" simply prompts the dog to pause in whatever he's doing and not move any further forward until released. On the other hand, "stay"-- which is usually paired with a sit or a down -- requires a dog to not only pause but to remain unmovingly in position until released, which is quite difficult for many dogs, especially puppies, to do.

(There's half my spiel right there.)

Public speaking is not really my forte, but I perform much better when I prepare beforehand. To that end, I've written and practiced my spiel, and have been coupling that with actually pretending to teach the "wait" cue to Allie. As I will suggest to my students this evening, I've been practicing at her mealtimes.

Allie is not exactly thrilled with being my practice demo dog for this exercise. I taught her this manuever years ago when she was a puppy after she mowed me down one too many times in her eagerness to eat start her dinner while I was still setting her dish on the floor. But she waits like a champ now -- and her reaction to having to wait longer for her dinner than usual as I pretend to demo the exercise to an invisible audience is difficult for me to ignore.

She barks. Loudly. I can practically hear her saying, "Dammit, I know how to do this. You've been making me do it for years. I do it right. Why in hell are you making me wait so long all of a sudden? Just gimme my dinner, will ya?"

Eventually, of course, I do. I tell myself that it's good to practice amid distractions -- and my Golden girl's diatribe is indeed a distraction. In any case, though, I've probably practiced enough. Undoubtedly Allie will be relieved to have mealtimes go back to normal.


Liz Palika said...

My dogs have been my demo dogs for years. I often have people come back to class saying, "We were in your classes years ago with our first dog. Care Bear was your dog in class then." Or they'll mention Ursa, or Dax.

In my classes, I use my dogs to show the 'finished' product - what the students are working towards. Then my dogs go do a down stay while I choose a student's dog to show 'the process.'

I do believe my dogs know they are the 'after.' My dogs all love applause and show it, and they all know what "Ahhhh...." means! In other words, they all love to show off.

But not all dogs like being the demo dog in front of an audience. One of my trainers, Kate, has a Rottie who is very uncomfortable in front of a class; she's nervous and doesn't like all those eyes staring at her. So we don't ask her to do it; that wouldn't be fair.

When one of us - my trainers and I - have a puppy or young dog, we'll use that dog as a demo even if he isn't the 'finished' product yet! Archer, my youngest, is still learning a lot - daily - and is still in the 'let me throw some behaviors at you' stage. Last night, in front of a basic class, he sneezed, backed up, rolled over, and played dead. So, that gave me a teaching point for the class to explain what he was doing!

Hey, it's all fun!


Susan said...

Having a dog demonstrate the "after" is a great idea. I don't think Allie would enjoy being the "after" dog, though! She prefers to invite any and all humans who come to our home to simply give her strokes, literally. But in the end, she's still a very good girl.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I like the idea that Allie isn't protesting. She is helping you proof your own behavior by raising the criteria with noise. After all, it *is* likely that a dog will bark at some point while you're teaching.

Good luck. I'm so excited you get to do this apprenticeship.

Terry Albert said...

What is this apprenticeship? Who with? I'm just reading for the first time!

Susan said...

I've been doing a dog training apprenticeship with Pat Miller.