Lessons from Ray!

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?

48 thoughts on “Lessons from Ray!

  1. He is likely smart enough to know the training is not ‘real work.’ Take him truffle hunting (he will need some training) and when he sees you collecting them and selling them, he will know that it is real work! Especially if he is working for treat rewards (in return for giving up the truffle), he will also be getting paid!
    Truffles are usually rooted out by pigs, but dogs have been trained too. Truffles are sought by top restaurants and they pay a good price. Just a thought.

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      • I have to find a way to read your book. I am in UK and don’t have a Kindle nor any of the compatible readers. I live on a boat that moves around the country and don’t have a house. I housesit lots of pets and have been called a cat and dog whisperer because I get good responses from them (because I communicate through mind pictures).
        My computer is Linux and I only have a cheap android phone for most of what I do…including my own blog 😄

        I will eventually find a way to read your book 😄

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  2. Just read this post and immensely impressed by Ray. He obviously wants to please you (obedient to requests), but draws the line at what he considers your stupidity to lose your ball/object twice! He obviously doesn’t see it as anything other than your inane game. I think he would respond to harder tasks… Training him for a real purpose like retrieval of people’s lost items in woods, or on walking trails would likely be very successful. Or perhaps he would enjoy a job searching for truffles! 😄

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  3. Ray is definitely sharper than other dogs! What is referred to as “conditioning” where the dogs easily fall into the habit, Ray is wise and avoids this. He isn’t a “pet” – he is an individual, alright! 🙂 And that is how it should be

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  4. Ray’s breed has all the smarts. You’ll be amazed at how easily and quickly you extend on the “put in the box” game to other household chores that work to your advantage! I start out with that one game then extend to tidying away all toys, tennis balls and stuffed toys into a tub and then extends further to taking items for recycling, placing into washing machine, kitchen bin… Keep it varied, fun and if you’re smart and thinking ahead work it to make lighter work for you too 😉

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  5. Ray is quite the logical dog. Kali used to go get the toy once or twice before adopting a similar demeanor as Ray’s “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” as it relates fetch. Now Kali doesn’t even get it the first time and just defers to her little sister Kloe who will run after whatever we throw even if she doesn’t always give it back right away.

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  6. Ray, you are an amazingly clever dog and I must admire your intellect. I totally agree with your take on the “fetch it” game; kind of a been there, done that! How many times must you do it to prove you can, right? However, since they are paying good money for this training perhaps you would do well to indulge them – a little. Colin seems an amiable sort, so why not? P.S. Love the poem and was wondering where you found it. I’d like to give a copy to my Granddog, Harley and her Mom ( my daughter.) Thank-you!

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    • Hi Ellen. I honestly cannot remember where that poem came from. Whenever I come across something like that, I copy and paste into a file with the author’s name if known. I don’t generally note where it came from. Here’s another!

      A Loan From God (Author Unknown)

      God promised at the birth of time,
      A special friend to give,
      His time on earth is short, He said,
      So love him while he lives.

      It may be for eight or ten years,
      Or only two or three,
      But will you, till I call him back,
      Take care of him for Me?

      A wagging tail and cold wet nose,
      And silken velvet ears,
      A heart as big as all outdoors,
      To love you through the years.

      His puppy ways will gladden you,
      And antics bring a smile,
      As guardian or friend he will,
      Be loyal all the while.

      He’ll bring his charms to grace your life,
      And though his stay be brief,
      When he’s gone the memories,
      Are solace for your grief.

      I cannot promise he will stay,
      Since all from earth return,
      But lessons only a dog can teach,
      I want you each to learn.

      I’ve looked the whole world over,
      In search of guardians true,
      And from the folk that crowd life’s land,
      I have chosen you.

      Whatever love you give to him,
      Returns in triple measure,
      Follow his lead and gain a life,
      Brim full of simple pleasures.

      Enjoy each day as it comes,
      Allow your heart to guide,
      Be loyal and steadfast in love,
      As the dog there by your side.

      Now will you give him all your love,
      Nor think the labor vain,
      Nor hate me when I come to call,
      To take him back again?

      I fancy each of us would say,
      Dear Lord, thy will be done,
      For all the joys this dog shall bring,
      The risk of grief we’ll run.

      We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
      We’ll love him while we may,
      And for the happiness we’ve known,
      Forever grateful stay.

      But should the angels call for him,
      Much sooner than we’ve planned,
      We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes,
      And try to understand.

      If by our love we’ve managed,
      God’s wishes to achieve,
      In memory of him that we have loved,
      And to help us while we grieve;

      When our faithful bundle departs,
      This earthly world of strife,
      We’ll get yet another pup,
      And love him all his life.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, Lexi was willing to humour me once by going after a ball or stick. Then her work was done. Multiple items is brilliant and keeps things more interesting. I really love the poem, too.

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    • “When God made the Earth and sky, the flowers and the trees,
      He then made all the animals, and all the birds & bees.
      And when his work was finished, not one was quite the same,
      He said, “I’ll walk this earth of mine, and give each one a name.”
      And so he traveled land & sea, and everywhere he went,
      A little creature followed him, until its strength was spent.
      When all were named upon the earth, and in the sky & sea,
      The little creature said, “Dear Lord, there’s not one left for me.”
      The father sniffed and softly said, “I’ve left you till the end,
      I’ve turned my own name back to front, and called you Dog,
      My friend”. (author unknown)

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