Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fits and starts in training a dog (with kids)

© 2012 Joshua Stark

Now that I have a spaniel(ish) dog, I've been looking up spaniel training on YouTube, and what I've found are some really, really inspirational videos from folks from the United Kingdom who make training dogs look like a snap.

I've never had a problem with basic obedience out of any of my dogs; I recognize I've been really lucky with my dogs, too.  But I've never been able to train for distance - getting dogs to stop what they are doing and instead of coming back to me, look at me for directions.  This is my next project for Rosie.

My hunting dogs have all had a great drive, a wonderful desire to please, smarts like you wouldn't believe, and above all, loved me to pieces.  Rosie is a bit different, so far.  She comes to me for protection now, and she comes fairly regularly to the recall, but she lacks some enthusiasm.  I'm chalking it up to her being sick (looks like a cold, but no cough) and to youth.  She shows some real action for about five or ten-minute spurts, and then she has to take a break, so it probably is the former.  (She also lost a tooth last night, so there is much going on.)

I know she's smart, she's passed all the tests I gave her, and she's nosy as all heck - she's even become our early warning dirty diaper detection system.  And she loves the kids.  I'm hoping that when her health improves and her teeth come in, she'll get some bounce in her step.

The past two days we have been working on coming when called and sitting.  The recall is kinda tough for both of us, but especially me.  I'm trying to tighten up my commands so that I don't start bad habits, and I have some trouble remembering that her name doesn't mean "come!"  I'm also using a new hand signal that will be helpful in the field, but that feels really silly, especially when I'm motioning to a dog that is seven feet away.  She likes me whistling, so if that's how it goes, then so be it.  The biggest thing for me is that she comes back.

Sitting has been going very well, although she's funny about it like a puppy should be.  She'll get so excited to sit that she'll go ass-over-teakettle backwards sometimes.  I love it.

I'm also uncomfortable using a leash during training, as I've trained all my other dogs just by being out in the yard with them.  I'm not using the leash too much right now, but I might start using it more just because all the cool guys on YouTube are doing it (and by "cool" I mean tweed-and-rubber-boot-wearing, thick brogue talking types with dogs they could probably train to fly an airplane).

One interesting book I picked up is "The Intelligence of Dogs" by Stanley Coren.  It's not a training manual, it is a book about dog smarts.  I'm enjoying it, but then again I am a gigantic nerd, so there you are. One thing I've noticed is that I've always gravitated toward the smarter end of the breed spectrum, and my last dog, Irma, was a mix of the smartest (border collie) and the fourth smartest (golden retriever) on the author's list.  The English Springer Spaniel, by the way, Mr. Coren ranks at 13.

And speaking of nerdy, I've even been researching dog whistles, of all things.  I've settled on a pealess Acme 10.5 because I don't think I'll need anything super-loud and I don't want a pea in my whistle (that sounds funny).  I've never used a whistle on dogs, but I'm not confident in my own whistling to be loud enough.

Really I'm just pleased as all get-out that I've got a dog, and watching my kids with her, I know I've made the right decision.  Just today, for example, Ruben decided it would be a great idea to hit her with a metal measuring cup.  The good dog just sat there and took a couple of swipes, then got up and walked over to me.  When I noticed what he had just done (and was trying to do again), I laid down the law to the 19 month-old, for all the good that'll do, and gave Rocie all kinds of fuss.

And Phoebe and her caniphobia?  Day-before-yesterday, she started feeding Rocie out of her hand.

I'll end with a wonderful video extolling the virtues of FTCh Buccleuch Pepper, an advertisement for those looking for a champion Springer sire (and who, if you wanted to call him, would come to "Paper!  Come here, Paper!").  He is our goal:


Hippo said...

Now the fun starts. It'd be hilarious to see you in stalkers tweeds with a Laura Ashley headscarve knotted firmly under your nose shouting, 'SiiIIT!' No, Sit, not shit.

My two are driving me nuts herding piggies and then getting all frantic when I do nothing.

But... the police, who agreed I could hunt the piggies have now said that it would be better if I shot them with a bow and arrow rather than with a noisy firearm. I too am happier with this solution as I would not want to be loosing off high velocity with all the attendant risks of a stray round.

What I want to know Josh, is how far can you strip down a reflex hunting bow? Can it be reduced to pieces small enough so that individually they would not attract attention?

Josh said...

Hippo, I doubt I'll go that far... unless that's the secret.

So you want something approaching a bow? I could send you a longbow and just tell them it's a walking stick. A reflex bow doesn't usually break down, but it packs in such a manner that it looks nothing like a bow - it's basically a circle, or close to it. However, hunting weights for them make them pretty expensive, and I don't know what the humidity would do to them. Many recurves come in three pieces, but they all look like a bow. Compound bows may break down and look like other things (pulleys and such), but you would need a bow press to put them back together.

Are there any folks in Angola who make bows? There is a YouTube, "Nate practices archery in Southern Angola" of a white guy making us all look like complete buffoons. Sadly, that was all I could find when googling "angolan archery", but the bow in the video gives me hope that somebody out there hunts with them. I'm a stick-and-string guy, myself (I shoot a recurve, not a compound, after pigs and deer).

What will you do for arrows?

smellyrhinostudio said...

Josh, please help. I got a gigantic limb full of green walnuts from my neighbor. They are so sticky that I am not sure how to proceed with the overnight soaking you suggest in your old blogpost on making walnut liqueur. How do you wash the walnuts?

Hippo said...

Josh, us big animals of Africa have to stick together! No advice for the smelly Rhino about what to do with his nuts?

As an aside, Doggy has just given birth to TEN pups, all doing well. So I have gone from three minus one (´cos of the snake) to two plus ten.

Looks like Number Three has also been covered so in a few weeks I´ll have another load.

There you were desperately looking for a dog and now I will be up to my ankles in them.

Be nice to hear how things are going, me auld mate.

Josh said...

Oh, it's been so long since I've even opened my own blog! Thanks, smellyrhinostudio and Hippo for reading and commenting. Smellyrhino, I've never had sticky ones before, but I believe soaking will help. Hippo, I'm glad to hear about the dogs. At least you are rich in love. Our little bitch is coming along well.

My life has been weird: Unemployed for the longest time since I was fifteen had been tough, but I just got a job and I start tomorrow. I'll probably start posting again soon.

Hippo said...

Oh dear, sorry, really sorry to hear it´s been a bit rough for you. Shit happens mate, but sometimes it all happens for a reason. You just have to tough it out and not hit the bottle like I did. I never feel like writing when I get depressed or something goes badly wrong but it does help me put things in perspective. You know, you write 200 words of ranting and raving, read it the next day and say to yourself, blimey, things aren´t that bad really! We´re alive, we ain´t starving, and the sun is shining.

Don´t let the bastards grind you down and remember you have some friends out here.

Good luck with the new job!

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