Monday, 14 December 2015

Teaching a Young Dog Old Tricks - Mavis


Mavis is around five, officially of course we don't know her age and her previous owner was less than forthcoming, so we didn't press for any definitive information.  When we first took her to the vets just after she came into our lives on 31st December 2013, they estimated her age by her bone structure and her teeth, so officially on her vaccination record she is down as having a birthday of 1 January 2011.  So in a couple of weeks she will be five.

Absolutely in her prime  :-)


Having three dogs does tend to mean that they get less one to one time with me, but I do try and give them that whenever I can.  They get individual outings with me, and of course Rosy is often out and about with Lovely Hubby as she loves to ride in the cab of the truck with her Dad.  As pack leader I have been the one to train them, and whenever I can I fit little training moments into their days to keep them learning and fresh with their tricks I do.

When Rosy was young she learnt her doggy ways from Sophie our beloved Border Collie, anyone who has or has had a Border Collie knows that they are the nearest dog to a human there is.  Training a new dog with an intelligent older dog that does the command immediately it is uttered is a doddle, and thus Rosy knows as many words of the English language as it is possible for a Jack Russell to know.  

We've tried all the spelling of the words so she doesn't pick up on what we are saying when we are discussing the possibilities of a walk in wet weather.  But even W. A. L. K.  spelt quietly out means get to the door fast we are on our way somewhere exciting, as does 'should we have a perambulation along the prom', a jog round the field etc etc.   We've given up ... she knows we're going out before we do!!

Mavis on the other hand came into our lives knowing only orders, following a pack of dogs for information on what would happen next, hoping one would get it right and therefore none of them would be punished ... and at all costs to keep out of the way of any raised hand or booted foot.  

She flinches if you move suddenly, presses herself into her bed if something scary startles her, and ducks low if she doesn't understand the words leaving your mouth.  Because of this she's harder to train.   Repetition leaves her fearful, the tone of your voice if impatience leaches into it even slightly, means the end of you loving her .... in her mind .... and she shuts down.

So to train Mavis I work slowly, imperceptibly slowly, she doesn't know she being trained.

It takes me an average of one to two months to get a command into her sweet little brain so that it can stay there.  She's learnt sit and stay.  She knows that 'wait' is for her own safety and she will wait, watching your face intently all the time for confirmation she's doing it right.  As the only dog that wears an extendable lead on our paddock walks she was apt to get herself wrapped around trees when she went this way and that, so I spent over our allotted two months teaching her 'round' ...  she got it!!  She now knows if I say 'round' and she backtracks her last few steps, the lead will magically free itself from the gate post or tree and once again her freedom will be there.  She can even double 'round' and free herself from two obstacles.  I'm proud of my little girl for this trick, neither of the other two have the faintest idea what 'round' means.

I made the mistake of trying to teach her to 'high five' after reading about it being a marker of a dog's intelligence in an article .... big mistake!!  A hand in that position strikes fear into her heart and her eyes, we tried it twice ... we won't be trying it again, she doesn't need to know how to high five.

Last week she had her fastest ever lesson ....


... she learnt to wink in just five days  :-)

It was harder to photograph than it was to teach her.  

Where is she at the moment I can almost hear you asking .....


... she's on the Blogging cushion with Suky!!

While I am on the computer my two little companions in crime sit on the old dog cushion at my side,  watching to see when blogging time will be over and snoozing peacefully away until Mum springs back into action with something that will be much more interesting to them.

The next little trick we are working on is 'paw'.  I simply wait until she is sat next to me on the sofa and every now and then, just a couple of times a night, I lift her paw and say the word.  The first few times she lept off the sofa, now she is at the stage of just looking at me slightly bemused.  The other two both do this easily and have since they were tiny, and of course Rosy being the little show off she is does 'other paw' and 'other, nother paw' (three handshakes) with great gusto, Suky does it with much trepidation ... she has extremely ticklish feet, and one day very soon Mavis will join in and that will be one more trick under her collar :-)

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Reverse Advent - Days 13 and 14

I didn't post yesterday as I was feeling pretty yuk, just a bad cold no need to worry, but luckily I had already sorted out two things to go.  Two Christmas candle holders and a dress shirt that Lovely Hubby no longer wants.


Sue xx


25 comments:

  1. Give Mavis a kiss for me.
    I absolutely love her-x-x-x-

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    1. Will do .... an extra kiss for Mavis is no problem :-)

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  2. You are lucky having dogs. I hope to have a dog again once we've settled into retirement an not travelling too much.

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    1. They do ground you a bit don't they. We are lucky to have excellent kennels close by but we would be much more out and about if we didn't have the dogs for sure.

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  3. You've got great dogs and that is a credit to you and your hubby.
    Mavis' little face is the sweetest and cutest I ever saw, but I can imagine the mischief that she's thinking up.
    Sue, I deleted your comment on my blog by accident. I'm so sorry. Slap me !

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    1. Thank you, that's a nice thing to say.

      Funnily enough Mavis isn't really mischievous, she used to be a little bit with Charley egging her on, but she's too conscious of the chance of raised voices so she tends to sit on the sidelines watching rather than doing anything even slightly naughty. It's as though she doesn't want to do anything to upset us. She WILL eat any food that is dropped on the floor before you have a chance to pick it up, but that comes from being starved in the past during her second sad adventure.

      Slap!!

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  4. I can recommend Clicker Training for Mavis. A friend has used this with a horse which came to her apparently OK as a 4 yr old but it was soon obvious that he had been ill-treated and it had made him nervous and very aggressive in certain situations. He was still like it at 16, despite being loved, cared for and always treated gently. The positive reward system of Clicker Training made sense to him (he is a clever boy too) and he has lost his fear, aggression and worry (esp. over food) and is now 99% better. There are specific dog clicker training books (as there are for horses). As you can only guess Mavis' treatment in her old home, I am sure this would help reassure her.

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    1. Rosy is clicker trained, well she was when she was a young pup, she picked it up rally quickly, she still reacts to the clicker years later so once learnt it never leaves them. I tried with Mavis but she was baffled after numerous attempts, so we went to the slowly, slowly take two months approach which suits her better.

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  5. Yup! Zac, my Border Collie, also understands every spelled out word even when seemingly fast asleep - the twitch of an ear or partial opening of one eye indicates that he has heard and understood. In the car, he can be lying down and still know exactly where we're heading, due to the direction we take at a roundabout, then he's on his feet and whining in anticipation (for the beach) or nose into tail when we head towards the town. Very, very clever and aware dogs. Sometimes too flippin' clever!
    Mavis is very lucky to have such a patient owner - and she has such a sweet face. x

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    1. Yes they do seem to know where they are going in the car don't they. Rosy always heaves a sigh of relief when we driver PAST the kennels on the hillside and on into town, ready for a walk on the beach :-)

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  6. I've only ever lived with cats, where training is not really an option!

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  7. I love to see your dogs , We adopted a dog years ago and she was nervous around noises of fast movements we never know what happens in there past though xxx

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  8. Dear Sue,
    just love all your dogs and have followed the life of Mavis since you first got her. We have had our cat since she was a ten week old kitten. She was easy to train and although wary of strangers she just accepted them. About two years ago she suddenly started to spit and lift her paw at visitors. We did not know why, but a friend came yesterday and he has big feet, as they came near her she went into her spitting and pawing way. I now think that she has been kicked by the man next door. He has mental health problems and is very irritable. I do wish with all my heart that people would not ill treat animals, but like Mavis, there are some bad, mad, sad people out there. Mavis is in the perfect home for her. Love Andie xxx

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  9. I am so glad that Mavis came to live with you. I cried when you told her story. Mavis is a sweet dog.

    Hope your cold is better.

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  10. Your remarks made me smile. Tess knows we are going out without her almost before we know ourselves. By the time we are ready to go and she is safely in her basket by the Aga, snug and warm with a few treats and promises that we won't be long, we are both feeling totally guilty and just dare not look her in the eye.

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  11. Your dogs melt my heart..I would love a cuddle.

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  12. Training dogs is so much fun! Our girl knows "give me five" which is my hand out-stretched and palm up, she puts her paw on mine. She even does "other side" when you change hands... maybe not as theatening , but either way not an essential command, just a bit of fun :)

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  13. Training dogs is so much fun! Our girl knows "give me five" which is my hand out-stretched and palm up, she puts her paw on mine. She even does "other side" when you change hands... maybe not as theatening , but either way not an essential command, just a bit of fun :)

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  14. I'm afraid I've failed as a trainer for Polly. She knows a lot by just observing, so I'm sure she could learn something if I tried. Alas. Polly has a little bed by me as well.

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  15. Lovely photos. Wish I could get ours to sit or stand long enough without being distracted to get a lovely photo of them. One of them always walks off or approaches the camera just as the photo is about to be taken. I have a collection of dog pictures with a dog's head missing or a blur where one of the dogs should be! x

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  16. What a lovely girl, so hard to restore faith when a animal has been ill treated, but you are obviously great owners and know her very well. Love the winking..very funny.xx

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  17. Our dog Abby (a golden Lab) has been with us now for more than three years -- and only recently has she allowed Husband to take her in his arms. (Pet her, yes -- hold her, no.) She trembles and is tense, but lets him stroke her.
    Which seems like an incredible gift, for her to put that trust in him.

    All we can figure is that she was hurt by someone male in her past. The family who gave her to us seemed to be 'good,' although they complained that she would often try to "chew her way out of the laundry room." She's never done that with us. But unlike our other dog Charley (a golden lab/Chesapeake mix who looks on Abs as his 'pet' -- not ours), she doesn't generally come looking for love, either. Go figure.

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    1. This is interesting; we got a retriever from a family and have had similar problems and we can't figure out why. It took me two years to be able to have a gentle cuddle (can't hold her for any length of time) and kiss the top of her head. She can't bear being firmly held and won't let a vet touch her at all. She shakes and is petrified and tries to run away. It's awful to watch. We were told that she used to wet the floor in her last house but we've had no accidents in all the years we've had her. Our other dogs came to us as pups and are completely different, very calm and affectionate.

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  18. Would love to get my son's young pug, I think about 13 weeks now to go out side potty.
    She knows w a l k to go out on the lead with the other older dog, but only watches the older one do her business, then immediately the pug comes in and does her business all over the floor. It is complicated since my son & his wife work the late shifts and sleep all day. The older girl holds it but the pup is a mess every where indoors. I also don't see her every day, so the walks aren't consistent either. She will only wee on a pad once, but nothing else, and if they are sleeping, she goes any where she wants to get too. Wish I could find a better way, she is young but very intelligent, with winter coming on, I can't keep her out very long.

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