Most of the time I enjoy walking with my dogs. It is a time for quiet reflection for me, a time where blog posts come together in my mind and Sirius, philosophical thoughts take place.
It’s also a time for working with and training my dogs. We are constantly working on SOMETHING.
There are certain areas of our woods where Sampson practices his heeling. These areas are typically the entrances to the park, or to Sampson, the place where he meets people and other dogs.
When the dogs are off-leash in the woods we practice our recalls. Delilah is a work in progress. I’ve worked very hard on developing our bond so I am more valuable and rewarding to her than anything else she could possibly find. Still I’m cautious about letting her have her freedom and keep recalling her back to me in the hopes it will be so habitual that should the opportunity ever present itself, she won’t give in to temptation.
Sampson also needs to work on his recall because he has selective hearing lately. Sometimes he completely ignores me and just continues sniffing whatever it is that caught his nose. Since I don’t worry about him running off like Delilah would, those are the times when I will give Delilah something exciting, like we will run a bit and get lots of treats. Of course, once the straggler comes back to us, he goes on leash or he must heel.
Not coming back to me is unacceptable.
There’s also another command we’ve been working on. It’s called Stop. I typically use this command when the dogs are both off-leash in the woods. Suddenly I will say, “Stop!” and reward them when they do. My thought process is this – to have a command so solid, the dogs will do it without even thinking. So now when that wayward deer shows up and my dog takes off, (and I panic forgetting my recall word) I yell, “Stop!” and my dog will cease what he/she’s doing and actually stop. Once I’ve gotten their attention, (and gathered my wits again) I can easily recall them back to me.
At least this is how it works in my head.
Stop means stop, but stop what?
Yet, I forget that I use Stop for so many things. Isn’t that the problem with commands?
- I say Stop when I’m trying to put a harness or collar on and someone will not stand still.
- I say Stop when someone is licking the counters or the rug, or the cabinets, or… well you get the point.
- I say Stop when Delilah tries to put her cold, wet Kong on my lap.
- I say Stop when Delilah is waking me up in the morning by burying her head in my chest and pushing me backward.
As humans we can differentiate the context in which a word is being used, but our dogs are literal, they are only understanding the command as we are teaching it to them.
I forget these things sometimes.
Last Saturday we took our early morning walk. Delilah is the dog who ALWAYS attempts to cover her business by kicking dirt/grass/leaves etc over it. I want to tell her she’s a big ass dog and grass isn’t going to cover her business, but I keep quiet because she wouldn’t understand me anyway.
So this particular morning Delilah does her business on someone’s lawn and started kicking grass over it. Naturally I want to pick it up, so I say “Stop.”
In my mind I am telling her to stop kicking grass, but Delilah’s mind and my mind do not work the same way and my “Stop” command has taught her to cease moving forward. Still, somehow, miraculously she does stop and she stands there looking at the road. So I bend down to pick up the doody and BAM, a clod of dirt and grass hit me right in the side of my head.
I wondered how hard someone who observed us would have laughed. I know I would have laughed, if I wasn’t the one grass on my glasses and dirt in my ear.
She did stop walking though.
Do you have any commands that mean more than one thing? Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.
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