I often mention in passing the training I do with Lola (left) and LarryDog, but today I will give them their own blog post. LarryDog is 12 now. He seems to be getting a bit harder of hearing and dimmer of vision, but he isn’t really any slower on those occasions when he gets into a wild romp with Lola up and down our long, narrow, hilly quarter-acre yard.
He has always barked a lot. While sometimes this has annoyed us, he’s been an excellent dog for warning away the bears where we lived in Colorado and now any would-be thieves where we are in Mexico. It’s been interesting to watch him let Lola take over some of the barking jobs. She isn’t nearly as talkative as he is, but every now and then she goes outside through the dog door and lets out a deep “Woof!” or two. When she started this, he would run outside too and bark away. Now, he is often content to let her take care of it while he gives a few token barks from inside, then settles back down into one of his favorite spots — by me and my computer, often.
LarryDog is a bright fellow — Blue Heeler, Chow, maybe some German Shepherd — and he loves to learn new things even now. He likes clickers and often trains me to give him more treats than I was intending to! (But no, he isn’t fat — playing with Lola has really helped him get more active exercise.) In the past year, he’s learned quite a few things, including the trick of letting me put treats on his paws and leave them there till I say “Okay!” This was easy for him, because he waits for his meals till I give the word too.
He’s also gotten very good at “Watch me!” which I had taught him a few years ago. I kind of forgot it but he never did, and now we are using it a lot. His long stay is much more reliable than it has ever been, and we are even making progress on his cutting back on his barking when requested. I usually do this by calling him to come and sit by me, and rewarding him with petting. I think he is mellowing with age in this regard.
Lola, now 18 months, is getting more of my training attention, as she came to us less than a year ago as a rescue. She reportedly was bred by an American family in this area (Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara in Mexico), and a local dog trainer and walker called her the best Rottweiler bitch he’d ever seen, in both looks and temperament. Unlike most rescue dogs around here, she has never known life on the streets. She too came to us with a good start at being trained, and like LarryDog, she’s quite biddable. This is a treat after living for ten years with a Basenji. (“You want me to do… what? I don’t think so!”)
We have a training routine with Lola. I feed the dogs their breakfast, and whoever cooks dinner feeds the dogs too. We usually do five minutes or so of training before each meal — outside or in the sunroom where she eats, while LarryDog is closed in the kitchen gobbling his meal. Okay, some days it is just a token, but other days it goes on longer. Sometimes I do training with her at other times of day too. We are still working on a reliable long down. It’s funny how dogs are — one day recently I said, “Down” and used my usual hand signal, To my awareness nothing was any different than the gazillions of other times I had done this. But Lola looked at me as though I had just landed from Mars and she had no idea what I was. I often do things with her in different parts of the yard, but this time we were right on the front porch, our most common spot. Go figure.
I like to do sits and downs with both dogs together. Lola will keep glancing at LarryDog to be sure she should still be doing it.
There is something about these few minutes a day, day in and day out, that really makes the dog training a steady joy in our lives.
Original post July 17, 2008