Friday, March 20, 2009

Easiest command to train

When it comes to training your dog different commands, some things are easier than others.
Sit is easier than lay down, lay down is easier than roll-over, roll-over is easier than stay.
Sensi knows so many different words and commands that I long ago stopped keeping track. The day I realized that he was picking up on words without me doing any training was the day I stopped counting his commands.
But of everything I’ve taught him, there’s one command that sticks out as by far the easiest to teach.
What is it? Speak, of course.
I scratched my head a bit thinking of how I could train him to bark, and then I had one of those true light bulb moments.
“When does Sensi usually bark?” I asked myself. “I know! When he’s frustrated!”
So I made a simple training game that basically involved frustrating my dog.
I took his favorite toy from him and held it up high in the air. When he jumped for it, I pushed him away and scolded him, “Bad dog!”
If Sensi had a thought process, it would’ve been, “Jumping isn’t working, so I’ll try sitting nicely for my toy.”
I felt bad as I dangled the toy high the air, teasing and taunting him with it despite his well-behaved sit.
For quite a while, Sensi went back and forth between jumping and sitting. Eventually, he gave up and laid down, looking very depressed.
As mean as this sounds, I knew I had to keep him engaged, so I teased him even more. I waved the toy in front of his face and then ran off with it. As he ran after me, thinking we were going to play, I came to a stop and again waved the toy just out of his reach, then lifted it above my head.
“Arf!” Sensi barked, now clearly frustrated.
I immediately gave him the toy, played for a few seconds, and then went back to the keep-away game.
Within a matter of minutes, Sensi was barking each time I lifted the toy away from him. I started interjecting the word speak, and voila! The dog learned to “speak” on command.
It doesn’t get much easier than that.

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