Since Ray adopted us, we have had many conversations with the Humane Society’s dog trainers, as well as other trainers and a behaviorist. Even Carol, who had numerous dogs in her past, freely admits that none were quite like Ray.
The end result is that we both had a “crash course” in training Ray; understanding him, and generally making living together congenial and beneficial for all three of us.
It has been such an education, just listening to these individuals and gaining the benefits of their education, experience and insights into all things canine, that I have to conclude that anybody who believes that raising a dog is intuitive, is nothing short of delusional.
We believe that we have done a pretty good job with Ray given that all three of us seem quite content and generally happy here! We have learned so many “situations to avoid” when training Ray and I wish that others would take some time to educate themselves.
We learned never to shout at Ray if he was barking. He would be barking for a reason, and us shouting at him could compound the situation because he could interpret our actions as “barking” also. He could easily believe that our “barking” was simply supporting his “barking”! The solution? Find out why he barks and then address that issue. (We needed help with that one!)
We learned that if he did not respond to a request, then not to keep repeating the same request. Logic dictates that if he did not respond the first time, he may not respond the second time etc. If he does respond (e.g. to “Sit”) after four or five repeats, then you may simply be reinforcing the fact that he only needs to “Sit” after four or five repeats!
We learned to think training through very carefully to ensure that his understanding, and our desire, are in synch. If he responds to a request, and he is a short distance away from us, then calling him over to give him a treat will likely be misunderstood. He is not likely to grasp that what he did deserved a treat, but more likely coming to us (being the last event in his mind) deserved a treat.
We have learned so much about dogs in general, and Ray in particular, but he still “catches us out” periodically!
Ray was initially afraid of pretty much any animal or human. We taught him that people and dogs mean treats and he eventually decided that they were good things and not to be feared (needed Behavior Adjustment Training program to recognize correct timing for offering treats). Our next step was to take him beyond just accepting that people and dogs mean treats, and coax him into initiating contact. This worked quite well and our standard request was “Say hello Ray”, and he would go up to the person or dog (may be touch them with his nose), and then immediately look back for his treat.
Everything was working out so well as Ray not only knew how to get treats, but he was much more comfortable around people and other dogs. Some people have questioned why he touched them and immediately turned away from them, but we just explained his training and they seemed to understand.
Having said all that, Ray has just made it clear that we overlooked a small point! We were out walking him and a lady was approaching us. She smiled and greeted us as she passed, but Ray decided that she needed some attention and so he went over and touched her with his nose, and then looked back for his treat. It was an isolated case, but then it happened again. Our initial reaction was that Ray was being rather proactive and simply “working the system”, but he was very inconsistent which questioned that theory.
We know that he will be best friends with anybody who has treats in their pockets, but that did not explain this behavior satisfactorily either.
The other day we were out and a lady approached us with a polite “Hello” as she passed and Ray, once again, touched her and then turned his head to get his treat. One of the earlier ladies had also said “Hello”. Our request to Ray is “Say hello Ray”!
We think that Ray is picking up on the “hello” sound as meaning go over and touch, and then you’ll get a treat. He does not care who is actually saying the “hello”! Put him in a group of people all saying hello to each other and he will think that he is in doggy heaven!
Training can be very tricky. Intuitive? Hardly!