It continually amazes me how, being members the premier species on this planet, Ray manages to teach us things. These are not sophisticated things, in fact they are quite the opposite, and I am beginning to believe that our complex abilities have been developed at the cost of simple logic!
Ray has never been a dog who loves to play games. When he first moved in with us at an estimated age of 2 years old, he did not appear to understand the concept of play. While his background is not known, there were many indicators that his life had not been a very happy one and so we assumed that perhaps playing had not been part of his puppyhood.
While getting Ray to just let loose and play was a significant challenge, training him in general was relatively easy. He clearly wanted to please us, and he was very food motivated! He also appeared to have good rationalizing abilities, as evidenced when trying to teach him “Fetch!”
“Fetch!” resulted in varying degrees of success and failure, but Ray’s predominant attitude seemed to be very simple. “Throw the ball once and I’ll get it for you. Throw it again… and you can get it yourself while I lay down and watch!”
The program that Ray is currently in, is another attempt at getting him to play. His second (of four) sessions was yesterday evening and our “homework” prior to yesterday’s session was to get him to pick up an object and , if possible, get him to drop it in a container. Ray grasped the idea really quickly. I watched as Carol threw one of his toys across the room “Get it Ray!” Ray would charge off and grab it with the obvious intent of giving it back to her (memories of Fetch!). “In the box Ray!” “Put it in the box!” Ray dropped it over the box and in it went!
Our human failings now surfaced because Carol took his toy out of the box and tried to repeat the exercise. Ray was not interested (Remember Fetch?). We have been advised that training sessions are very demanding on a dog so, when they lose interest, take a break and change the whole tone of the moment so they can relax. We duly gave Ray a break but, upon returning to the training, he was not particularly interested.
We realized a short time later that this could simply be a variation on the “Fetch!” scenario. In this case it could be “Throw my toy across the room and I will get it and drop it in the box, but if you’re going to simply take it out and throw it again… you are both on your own!” Using multiple toys helped later!
I wonder why we believe that multiple repeats of a simple exercise is going to be fun for a dog? How many of us would get excited about a similar set of circumstances? Why did it take us so long to grasp that simple concept of repetition = boredom?
So how did he do at his session yesterday evening? He did very well with his exercises, and even managed to distract the trainer with his eye contact. He really likes her, and the feelings appear to be mutual. It would seem that he remembered her from his B.A.T. training sessions of a few years ago! He also got lots of attention from other people there. That was partly because he is the largest dog there, and also the eldest. There were two puppies there who were hyper-active, while Ray was chilling out and just watching everything going on!
Who could not love this guy?