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Back to School for Your Canine
Teach your dog that "paw" means you are going to pick up and handle his paw. You can also teach "shake," meaning for him to offer you his paw.
With kids going back to school and learning new and exciting things, have you ever thought of sending your dog to school? Or maybe you heard about the famous Border Collie that recognizes over 200 words and wonder if your dog could learn some new vocabulary? Teresa Gary, a former elementary school teacher, believes that dogs adjust and learn better if they understand what different actions mean by learning to association words with those actions. In English for Dogs, she covers 50 words that are commonly used in our daily interaction with our dog. Her methods were established when she rescued an abused and neglected Shetland Sheepdog that was so frightened and excitable that she had to find a way to calm him down and let him know what was expected. Using her many years of experience in teaching children, she decided that he would do better if he could associate sounds with the actions she was taking. It worked, and later she began to use and teach the same words to other rescue dogs and the people who adopted them, making the transition from rescue to foster home to forever home much smoother.
Words like "teeth," meaning you or a vet are going to handle his mouth and examine the teeth, or "brush," meaning that you are going to brush your dog's teeth, prepare him for the exercise and reduce anxiety because the dog knows what to expect.
Words can also be used for advanced exercises or tricks. Differentiate words carefully so the dog understands. If "walk" means "let's go for a walk," use a word that sounds totally different to ask the dog to walk on his hind legs.
Many of the words in the book are commands familiar with anyone who teaches basic obedience, but did you know that you can also teach your dog the meaning of “towel?” Think how much easier it would be if your dog knew that “paw” or “foot” means you want to dry her feet when you come in from a walk in the rain. Or, after a “bath,” if she understood that “dryer” meant she is going to be blown dry, or that “eyes,” “ears,” and “teeth” mean that each part will be handled. A dog that knows what to expect is much more relaxed and calm about being handled.
Many dogs are turned into the shelter due to unruly house manners. If your dog regularly jumps on you or the couch and chairs, teach a solid “off.” This command combines nicely with “up.” Both words can be taught simultaneously, teaching the dog “up” on the couch, and then “off” the couch. With some treats in hand, sit on the couch. Patting the couch beside you encouragingly, say “up.” Most dogs don’t need too many invitations to jump “up” beside you. Reward your dog with some treats and, after a few moments of quiet companionship, toss a few treats on the floor and give the command “off.” This is very useful at different times such as when you want your dog to jump “up” to join you while you are watching a movie, or you need him to stay “off” when family is there for the holidays.
Teaching a play "bow" can also translate to performing the trick, "Bow."
Another very useful word to teach is “place.” “Place” can be used to teach your dog to go to a designated area, especially when visitors come to the door or when the family is gathered at the table for dinner. Gary uses two throw rugs or mats, one in the family room and one at the entryway. To teach “place,” sit on the floor several feet away from the mat. Toss a treat on the mat and say “place.” Praise the dog when he approaches the treat. Continue in this way until you have the dog entirely on the mat. Tell him to “wait.” Release and treat. Work on this from a further distance and request that he stays there for longer periods of time. Soon you can send him to his “place” during dinner, when company arrives, or at other times where you need him to be quiet and out of the way.
Let your imagination run and experiment with different words that you use during the day. How many toys can your dog learn by name? Can he go “left” or “right?” Can he “hurry?” “Turn?” “Go back?” When you spend time working with your dog, your relationship with him will improve dramatically. People who watch you will be amazed at the partnership between you and your canine companion.