It is amazing what a dog can learn when his owner is not lazy…Posted: November 8, 2008
I was watching a show on dogs while I was beading yesterday and like EVERY dog show they went on and on about how amazing Border Collies were at doing jobs that required huge amounts of thinking and how it was almost animal cruelty not to give them a job to do.
Well, Loki is not a Border Collie, he is a Australian Shepherd. Which as far as I can tell is just about as smart, as they have been bred to do basically the same job. We have been amazed by how smart he is. But in one week he seemed to have lost everything. No more sitting, no more down…nothing, all gone, bye-bye. I don’t know when the “teenage” rebellion begins for this breed but I thought that 5 months old was a bit young for it to start no matter how smart the breed. (For those of you that don’t own dogs, somewhere around one year old, no matter how well you train your dog they just stop listening for a few months and do whatever the hell they want. Very much like a thirteen year old kid…it is a pain in the ass time, and one that I am not yet ready to go through as we are still potty training at times here.)
So I put the beads down and stared at him for a while, as he stared back. I asked him if he had become a dummy in one week. He licked his crotch. No progress there. So I did a test. I asked him to go through the tricks he knew. By the time he did down and army crawl he was back to chewing on a rawhide and ignoring me. Clearly I have a bored dog here.
Time for something new. I grabbed two of the favorite toys. Now that he has all of his adult teeth, tug is the BEST game in the world. I think it hurt his mouth a bit when he had baby teeth, but he can’t get enough of it now. We spent an hour learning “drop it,” “tug, tug, tug” (which means tug as hard as you can with growling, yeah both of us growl) and “get it” (which means run and get it when I throw it don’t just walk over and pick it up like you used to. This involves me getting way too excited, best done in the privacy of my own home.)
But then I discovered something useful, as I was reinforcing “get it” and he was getting more excited to bring me something quickly. I thought I should name what we are getting. So I started naming toys. Well, that was it. I could see the boredom disappear from behind his eyes as he had to figure out just which toy we were going to play with now. I tried to kept it simple yesterday to keep it fun. Only bunny and bear got named. But today he has learned: bunny, bear AND rope. If you throw all three at once you can name the one he has to bring back to get to play tug with. We were doing so well until his daddy came home and I was proudly going to show off his new skills. Yeah, no. Our success rate went down to zero. I guess James is still more exciting than either a bunny a bear or a rope, ah well.
It was so cute though. I could tell he was engaged again. All day long he kept bringing me new things to name and play tug with. If I was not interested in that object he would go root through he toy box looking for something else that might interest me more. So adorable. I love watching him try to think his way though what I am asking him to do.
Guess this means that I will have to get off my butt and work with him more often. I think I might miss the days when he had to sleep 18 hours a day because he was growing.