Friday, June 15, 2007

Learning New Words and Getting A Sight Hounds Eye Contact

I have introduced some useful things in the hounds vocabulary and have found that Lily (the nervous one) is quicker to pick this up than Dizzy Rascal. These are their new words. I thoroughly recommend reading Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies it seems to have a fairly balanced view and does help you to have higher expectations of a rescue dog than perhaps you would have had as you don't expect adult dogs to be so open to learning, but they are!

I have been working on trying to establish eye contact with them. They seem more interested in looking away than Border Collies, and I think it will be important to try and establish getting their attention as they are never going to listen to commands if they aren't interested in me. They get loads of praise when they are looking at me and I keep repeating the Watch Me command.

In the garden or Outside ( both means they must go outside on the lawn)
Toilet (they do a number one, normally straight away)
Do a Big One (they do a number two if they need one)
On your bed (they must go to their bed and have all 4 paws on it, I lure them then praise them)
Watch Me (means they must have eye contact and be ready for the next command, I am also luring them to do that)
Wait (they must freeze and literally wait, usually before having their

food, me opening the door, not the same as a formal stay for obedience)

The Clicker

I am not overloading them with new commands, just popping them in where they seem appropriate. I am also practising using a clicker. These are good because although praise is a good enough reward for a dog, sometimes you may say wait and a fraction of a second later they move whilst you are saying good boy/girl and they think the moving is what you wanted them to do.

So, the clicker is a reward marker, it means 'Yes that is right, I am goi
ng to reward you later for doing that'. So I started with calling their names, with a treat in my hand and when they came forward the moment I had their full attention I clicked and gave them the treat. Then I introduced a Watch me command so that when I called their name and they looked at me, they got a click followed by a reward. The eye contact to begin with can be so fleeting, that a click on that behaviour is the fastest and most accurate way of teaching them which of their many body, eye movements or other behaviours is good. Lily got this straight away, Dizzy is struggling to keep up, but he is struggling with his sight hound tendencies and male hormones bless him and he is older than Lily. Lily is still a pup at 20 months.

Rewarding them for being Quiet

I am also introducing a Quiet command. I recommend using this with caution. how may times do you hear a person shrieking Be Quiet, Stop it to a hound who is constantly barking. Of course, what is happening there is that the Quiet command is interpreted to mean Please Bark because that is exactly the behavior that is going on when you ask your dog to do this, he doesn't know you mean the opposite of what he is doing.

Teaching them not to jump up

The same goes for the Get down or just Down friends will repeatedly say this as your hound is jumping up at them so that is exactly what he thinks it means, please jump up!.

We use the command off, mainly because later on we will want the dog to learn a down command but that will mean lying down, not confused with this. We have said off to Dizzy as he is bouncy. so what we do is remove his paws from us, place them on the floor and then say Off, Good Boy and make loads of fuss while he has all 4 feet on the floor, he doesn't jump up at me any more but like most dogs, they can learn that behaviour with their owners, but test out each new person as it is different rules. So, they are really not that different from toddlers trying to assert their personalities and find the get out clauses.

I don't have hounds who bark a lot but Dizzy does a bit of whining when I am up the stairs, so I have been hiding around the corner and rushing down and clicking when they are quiet and making a fuss. If I hear whining, I go into the bedroom and shut the door. They don't want that so they are being quiet to try to make me come back to them and reward them.

Lily and her nerves

Lily has had a bit of training regarding her nerves and we have introduced her to new things but she has met her limit when I tried to walk onto the main road around our corner, she could hear big buses and a lot of traffic and could see men standing around so she became uncontrollably jumpy so I had to back up to the place she was comfortable, and get her to take it all in at a distance. We will get there in the end, i would like a companion I can take everywhere who will enjoy being with me so I think she will be capable of that one day. I must not betray her trust in me though, I must have patience and show her that nothing bad will happen but if I go too fast, she will lose that confidence. She is starting to calm down a bit with Steve as well,and we don't have bolting around the house. She does sometimes get a bit jealous of Dizzy or a bit stressed and she responds by going and marking his bed, just a little squirt (never her own bed though).

Dizzy being totally dizzy

Dizzy is asserting the power of his full strength though, when he decides he doesn't want to go outside for a wee, he pushes his bottom down and legs back into the floor and if I give even the lightest tug on his collar he starts yelping as if I have really hurt him. At first I thought I had, then one time I went near him to put a lead on and he didn't want to go because it was raining and he yelped before I had touched him. He is learning that if he does this, I can't budge him and I am worried that he will get his own way and I will have a habit which makes him uncontrollable on his walks. I must avoid him knowing he has the power over me at all costs. He does have a little whine as well if either of us goes out of sight. he is a big baby.

Separation Anxiety Training

Today, I must pop round the corner to go to the post office, so they must stay in and get used to that. I should be gone about 10 minutes or so. I can already go upstairs to my little office and work without much bother. The Godsend with these hounds is that they love to snooze and rest whereas a collie would get bored and destructive. I am going to see them every hour or so, and have a cuddle. They don't yet know how to play but we are trying with kongs and ropes, eventually they will become playful but it might take a few weeks before they are 100% relaxed.

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