Yes this is what an old lady mailed me. She has a hefty Labrador retriever and her dog prefers to sleep all the time, even when there is a visitor at the door. She lives in a largish house in a secluded area and has a small compound in front of the house. She is all the time scared of intruders and does not like to be bothered by vendors and the like. Someone advised her to keep a dog as a companion cum security guard. She got a Labrador for that purpose. Soon she found that her dog is over friendly and welcomes every one in the house. Sometimes his welcome is so boisterous that the soiled attire of the visitor leads to an embarrassment.
Through one of these social networking sites she came in contact with me. I found here was an ‘even tempered’ dog, which could be trained to the advantage of the owner. The problem was the age of the owner. But being a determined lady she followed the advice via mails and chat and began to teach her nearly two year old pooch. It took longer than expected, but finally her dog learnt step by step up to retrieving the ball.
Initially I had told her that once the dog learns to retrieve he will develop great fascination for the ball or whatever he is made to retrieve and will start barking soon! But that did not happen. This was possibly due to the fact that her dog Jumbo was over friendly and he had been separated from his littermates when he was merely three weeks old. Thus he did sometimes bark at the strays or even birds, but never barked at any two-legged creature!
Well I told her not be dismayed, for there are ways to teach a dog to ‘speak’ and gradually link his barking with his ball. But teaching a dog to speak has many other advantages too. And for that he need not be trained to retrieve. He should be qualified enough to sit and stay on command. But in addition if the dog is a trained retriever then he not only barks on command, but also picks up to guard.
We went through a schedule of training starting from the command ‘come’ and through various steps till the dog began to retrieve anything thrown by he. By then Jumbo was already ‘searching’ her lost key bunch and fetching her slippers etc.
Initially to train the dog to speak on command it was decided to do so in the morning after his routine exercise, feeding etc were over. That was the time when the dog loved to snore peacefully. As advised she took him to a room which opened outside. They sat in the room with all doors bolted. Jumbo in sit and stay position. She held his favorite ball in her fingers, occasionally showing him the ball, just to attract his attention. One of the assistants was asked to knock at the door sharply and go away. Just at that moment the mistress of Jumbo excited him in a hushed tone, ‘Jumbo speak’ she said and also gesticulated with her index finger towards the door. Jumbo was already excited about the ball, the knock had startled him too, plus the sudden hushed tone and an expression of fear on the face of the mistress made him bark instinctively. Instantly he was praised a lot and fussed about.
The act was repeated two times more. Thereafter she patted his chest like each session and said ‘okay’ and threw the ball for him to retrieve. This was really intelligent of her, because retrieving now meant a reward for making the mistress happy. Two more repetitions of the ‘game’ on the following two days and Jumbo was already speaking on command.
At that stage though still inside the closed room, a hand signal was introduced to make him speak without a verbal command. Because in case there is an unwanted visitor and you want your dog to bark to shoo him away, you will certainly not like to make a show of it by asking him aloud to speak. Therefore it is best to decide a hand signal or even a wink to make him bark on seeing that. Once the dog understands what is required of him you can link this training to the door bell. Then after a few more days of repetitions you can try it in the open and you will find the dog will bark the moment there is someone at the gate and you signal him to speak.
Like computer programming dog training steps are all linked. Majority of the trainers and owners do not understand the significance of this. Some trainers in a hurry to impress the owners teach the dog to heel and retrieve, but do not teach him to come and stay. Such a dog remains frisky or if he is intelligent he will try to run away at the first opportunity. Even while teaching the dog to speak it is better to keep the choke collar and training leash on. Only at the end of the training when you want to reward him, he should be unleashed. These small measures assure that the dog remains close by and also remain attentive to you.
Mind you there are a variety of temperaments in dogs too. There are some who refuse to learn. I came across a Labrador retriever of this category. He was an obese dog, used to eating fatty vegetarian food and drink liters of milk. He used to belch and fart like his master (perhaps!). One day a guy in the garb of a courier delivery boy knocked at the door. This boy robbed the master of some costly items while the dog preferred to sleep in other room. I advised this gentleman to teach his dog to ‘down stay’. The advantage of this position is that before responding to the doorbell, make the dog down stay near the door. Now as you open the door there is a hefty dog between you and the caller. In all probability he does not know that your dog is a lazy lump! If he has a dirty mind he will certainly panic and rob some one else.
If you have come all the way and made your dog speak on command, it is time to learn something about guarding your house or baggage. We will read about it in the next blog.