Thursday, July 21, 2005
One of the great things about working at the East Bay SPCA is that we believe that every dog is different. When we train our dogs, we approach them with this in mind.
Every dog has to do five basic Compulsory Behaviors ("comps") before they can be put up for adoption: walk on a loose leash, sit before leaving the kennel, go into a crate willingly, stay in a crate quietly, and stay on a tie-down quietly. These are basic training skills that we have found help the dogs transition into their homes gracefully. Each trainer finds the most successful way for each individual dog to do each individual skill. A dog may walk on a loose leash with a flat collar, for treats, with a Sense-ation harness, on a Gentle Leader, on a martingale, or, occasionally, on a pinch or choke collar.
Some dogs are harder to train than others. These dogs require creativity and patience from trainers. Jake is a hound dog, heavily distracted by his nose, and not particularly interested in our requirements. Jake came into our Oakland shelter in March, and was so distraught while learning his comps that a rare exception was made. He didn't have to sit. When Jake transferred to Tri Valley a couple months later, he still couldn't sit.
It takes every dog a varying amount of time to do their comps. It rarely takes a dog longer than a month or two.
I set out to teach Jake to sit. Jake wasn't having any of it, in any of the traditional ways. I tried to lure Jake: pushing food up from his nose to between his eyes. Jake looked at me like I was crazy. I tried the old fashioned push-on-the-rear way. Jake would not be pushed. I tried to "capture" him sitting inadvertently and reward him for it.
Jake did not sit.
I gave up on teaching Jake to sit and perfected his loose leash walking. Then I taught him to lie down. It took a few days, but Jake got that trick. But then the oddest thing happened: on the way back up from lying down, Jake sat!
He sat over and over and over.
I tried this in admin, and it worked. I tried this at the front desk, and it still worked! I tried this in the hall, and Jake could STILL sit! This picture may look like just another sitting dog, but it is the culmination of 4 months of training and lots and lots of patiently trying different (and sometimes strange) training methods.
I have never been so proud to see a dog sit.