A Two-Front War at the Train Your Dog Month Challenge

Honey is learning how tasty fun a bike trailer can be in celebration of Train Your Dog Month. My goal is for Honey to join me on a short jaunt in her Doggy Ride bike trailer by June.

Front #1 – As slow as Honey dripping off a spoon

Golden Retriever fetching a ball

I don't know the meaning of "taking it slow." I do everything at the speed of light.

When I announced my goal for Train Your Dog Month, I got some great advice. The most important was that I couldn’t go too slow.

We’ve taken the wheels off the bike trailer and it’s sitting in the living room like a dog crate. Believe it or not, we did this when Honey was a puppy but I eventually got too impatient and rushed things.

Not this time.

Honey gets her dinner near the Doggy Ride. If she looked in the direction of the cart, I clicked and tossed her a morsel of her food. Then I stood there while she figured out what to do next.

Once again, if she looked at the cart I marked her action with a click and tossed a tidbit away from the cart.

Sometimes, after being rewarded a few times for looking at the cart, Honey will wonder if there’s something else she should be doing. She runs through her standard behaviors:

  • sit,
  • make eye contact,
  • lie down,
  • spin in a circle.

As I ignore everything else, Honey eventually turns her attention back to the cart.

On her own, Honey decided to start putting her head into the front of the cart. Which, of course, solicited a click from me and some more food. Boy, has she got me trained?!

Taking a step back

I became overconfident when I saw how happy Honey was to put her head in the opening of the cart. I decided to try having her sit and stay near the cart while I gently jiggled it.

No way! As soon as my hand touched the cart, Honey broke the stay and cowered.

Now we’re practicing different behaviors near the cart without me touching it at all. After all, as I was advised by that Coonhound Lady with a fraidy dog of her own, when you think you’re going slow enough, slow down.

Front #2 – How do you train someone bouncing around the room?

We’re also watching a foster puppy for the Tompkins County SPCA.

The little guy (about 8 weeks?) was found wandering loose downtown. The SPCA decided he’d be better off in foster care while they were waiting to see if his family would claim him in a week.

On Monday, I’m taking Buster (he just reminds me of a Buster) back to the SPCA where he’ll get a temperament test and be made available for adoption. I don’t think he’ll be there for long. As you’ve seen, Buster’s a very cute puppy.

Puppies learn so much it’s hard to know what you’re teaching them and what they pick up on their own.

For the short time we have him, I’m concentrating on small things that will make Buster an easier guy for his new family to manage:

  • don’t poop or pee in the house (yeah, good luck with that one)
  • the crate is a relaxing place to rest and it often has yummies
  • there are better things to chew on than electrical cords and backpacks
White puppy showing his teeth

Buster: Land Shark

But while we’re sitting quietly, I’ve also been working on something else with Buster. I hold his paws. I gently pull his toes apart and touch his nails. I play with his ears. I lightly tug his tail. I slowly rock him back in my arms and tickle his belly.

I’d massage his gums with my fingers but I’m really dependent on them for blogging and, you know… I’d like to keep them.

For those of you who have never raised a puppy, their teeth are like little razor blades. Imagine a cute, fuzzy shark and you get the picture.

Join the Challenge – It’s not too late

Teach your dog to sit on his bed while you’re making dinner. Or train your bird to perch on your head. Even something as simple as teaching your dog that sitting still while you look at her ears will gain her a piece of cheese is enough to enter you in the challenge.

Why should you join the challenge?

  • There’s a cute badge you can add to your blog sidebar (look in our sidebar for the code).
  • It will give you something to write about when you have writer’s block.
  • You’ll get some new readers when you join the linky list that will be up starting January 31.
  • Working with your animal will strengthen your bond.
  • Oh yeah, and I’ll donate $50 to the animal cause of your choice if your name is chosen at random.

See? You don’t even have to meet some highfalutin goal or record a video of your progress. You just have to try.

To see who’s already signed on, keep a look out for the Something Wagging Train Your Dog (or cat or guinea pig or bird or goat…) Challenge badge.

Or check out the comments here and here to be inspired by what others are working on this month.

Join the training challenge. You have nothing to lose but a badly behaved pet.


Hop on…

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Comments

  1. Thank you, Honey and Pamela, for reminding me to go slow – and then slow down. The night temps are now in the teens. I dragged Howie in the house for the night, put him in a crate with LIQUID WATER and left him alone. Sometime in the night, I heard him drinking – YESH. I opened the door when I got up this morning – he is back outside. I do have a donated heated water bowl but it is in the front; I don’t have an outlet near Howie’s pen/Igloo. So, am regularly pouring hot water over the ice in Howie’s water bowl. Slow, slow. He does get out on his own into the yard when I am not present – sniff, sniff.
    Training challenge has adapted: now slow with Howie, not quite daily walks but am working with Justus on sit/wait at all doors beyond that of his crate – he is doing well :). Love this dog!

    • I guess it goes to figure that if dog years aren’t equivalent to human years the same is true for minutes and seconds. :)

      I keep needing the “slow down” reminder over and over again.

      Good luck with Howie and Justus.

  2. Going slow is hard! Especially when your dog seems to be making such great gains. Something in your mind just urges you to keep moving forward, pushing her just one step further.
    I was given some great advice by my trainer a while ago. She said “when you hear the voice in the back of your head say “just once more”, stop.” It’s so true and I fall victim to that over and over again. Shiva will be performing a new trick, surpassing my expectations, and I’ll say, just once more, just one more time. And that’s when it all starts to derail, every single time. Then I am stuck. Wanting desperately to end on a high note but getting worse and worse results. Ugh.

    I think you are on the right track. Shaping with a clicker is the best way to help a dog to not only figure out what is getting them the reward all by themselves, but it also helps counter-condition them to things that scare them. By clicking and rewarding Honey when she does something brave, you are encouraging her to move forward. She should be jumping into that trailer in no time!

    Thanks again for this terrific challenge!

    • Your trainer gave such good advice. And it’s true. There is a voice urging you on when things go well.

      Actually, in my case, it’s a full debate. “Should I try just one more? She’s doing so well.” “No stop, you dummy!” “Yes, but she’s having fun.” and on and on.

      Sometimes I put the clicker aside for a while. But when it comes back out, Honey is so responsive. It’s amazing how it clarifies things for her. Now if I could only avoid those “false clicks” when my timing is off. :)

  3. Well I was gonna say I don’t wanna learn a new skill, but if there’s cheese involved, you can count me in!

  4. *wipes away tears of mirth* I’m not sticking my fingers in Kuster’s mouth either! I like them the way they are, thank you very much! We do a lot of handling of his feet, belly and body. We leave the fragile ear cartilage alone for now, though. He’s really made a lot of progress, but on those frustrating days, it can be hard to remember that!

    I think Honey will eventually overcome her fear of the cart. I agree, though, the slower you work on it, the better it will be. The more you can pretend you don’t see her when she’s investigating it, the better it might be.

    I’ve read reviews that people have written that I thought were clever, and I’ve written some that I liked. When I have the chance to do a contest with it, it’s even better, but after our last photo contest experience, I guess I feel a little sour on it. I had someone go to Facebook and pull out the sympathy card that one of the photos she’d submitted was of a dog who’d passed away. So, instead of the photo that most of our true readers thought was the best and funniest, we had someone with a blurry, boring photo win because she turned it into a popularity contest. A bunch of people who don’t read the blog or comment all came and voted for their friend. When I do a review and/or a giveaway, I like to be creative and fun with it, but there seems to be no way around making it a popularity contest unless I make it a random drawing. I guess I’m still trying to find a way to write reviews that I think will engage people and entertain. Reviews for me mean less comments and readership, it seems, unless I make it something where people leave a comment to win. I just hate that it has to be so vanilla!

  5. I used the clicker on my hubby the other day when he opened the door for me -does that count? I can’t wait to see the pictures of Honey riding in the cart!,

  6. Hi Y’all,

    Wow this sounds like fun! My Human is always spending time training me. Most of the time it’s practicing skills I already know. I’d love the challenge of something new. Hope y’all have some ideas for the Human for this retriever who finds things hidden in trees or flower beds or fields.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  7. I get SO impatient too! I just want them so badly to know what I am looking for and use the behavior. I struggle with the whole “hurry up & wait” mentality. Honey will get there, I have faith in her – and in you.

    That is one adorable puppy you have. Love the shark in a fur suit analogy. Very fitting.

  8. Our trainer always picks one small thing to work on a day and when we get it we stop. Sometimes it makes for a short training session. Sometimes we have to go back during the training session and if we get a positive outcome with that, we stop. We just want to end on a positive. I think the really good trainers know all of this this stuff instinctively and the rest of the people (like me), muddle along. :)

    Hopefully Honey will be riding along by summer.

  9. I wonder what has got Honey so afraid of the cart that she cowers in fear if you touch it? Has she always been so scared of it or did something happen while she was in or near it? It does sound like it’s going to take a very long time to overcome her fear but I’m sure you and she can do it. Baby steps are better than backwards steps:)

    Oh, that Buster is such a cutie sharkie:)

    OK, you’ve broken me, I’m going to train Frankie to do something for your training challenge. Something easy like taking over reading and commenting on all the blogs I haven’t caught up with yet, and writing my blog posts for me I think, lol! I wish:) I can’t even train myself to do that right now. Between mowing my lawns and taking Frankie and Beryl for a walk now, I should have time to come up with something to teach him. I hope so, otherwise I’ll be Googling dog tricks and watching Youtube videos all night which won’t really get me anywhere except even further behind:)

  10. i know it’s after the fact, but i i just wanted to say that i really love what you did with buster. i don’t know anyone who has gotten a puppy–for keeps–and done that much work with said puppy. bravo!