Note: The author has had no veterinary or medical training. She has merely documented her experience with her dog's health problems. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before acting on any information you see here.
My mother, at age 78, should never have taken on the project of a new puppy. She couldn't bend down easily and was never quick enough to train Amie well. While Amie was paper-trained, she also used several spots in the house as evacuation points. When she was almost a year old we went to a new dog training class together and at least we were able to train her to walk on the leash. When my husband, Jeff, and I took over, we realized that this was a basically untrained one year old dog who was deeply in grief and resented any of our attempts to gain mastery.
That first month after my mom died I read
about 20 books and viewed a few videos on dog training. There are several
things I learned of value.
Two: Consistency. The most important aspect in training is consistency. Consistency in behavior toward the dog. Consistency in the words and syntax used to communicate with the dog. (See Amie's vocabulary.)
Three: Language. Once we figured out consistency, it became very easy to communicate to Amie. We could let her understand that barking is okay in certain circumstances and not others. "Good drink" is water in her cup. "No drink" is any other liquid. She truely understands complex sentences such as "Kakker (her name for me) no like Amie sit here." "No chew Amie piggies (feet)."
Mostly training Amie was a trial and error
process. We knew we would rather have an unruly dog than train it using
pain. We read everything we could about training, asked questions of veterinarians
and others who had dogs. Most of what we learned we learned by accident.
I kept looking for a tape or book that teach a person how to train a dog
through play, but never found it.
Since dogs are pack animals Amie sees our family as members of her pack. Dogs want to live in a group and are adept at cooperating in a group. We needed to learn how to think like a dog - and how to communicate so she would understand us. As pack leader, I need to assert my leadership whenever necessary. I was dismayed to learn that subordinate pack members will continually test for dominance, but I learned that it doesn't take much to retain leadership. Merely rolling her over on her back (it's really easy to do with a 7 pounder) and rubbing her stomach is as much playful as dominance establishing.
Especially during the pack acclimation stage, I would treat my husband Jeff in some of the ways I would treat Amie. "Jeff is such a good girl", (rubbing Jeff). "Amie is such a good girl", (rubbing Amie). This let Amie know that the three of us are in the same pack. Jeff and Kakker always eat before Amie does. This teaches her to know that Jeff is somewhat of a co-pack leader and Amie is subordinate.
The subordinate looks to the leader for approval. I began praising Amie for doing what she was already doing - "Good eat", "Good sniff", "Good make a nest". Matthew Margolis, founder of the National Institute of Dog Training in Los Angeles says that love, praise and affection are the basis of effective training. We give her liberal amounts of positive strokes.
We never have hit her but there was one time of extreme annoyance when I grabbed the back of her neck (as a dog pack leader would do to keep a pup in line) and she nearly bit off a finger. To this day she does not like anyone to come up behind her. She still may sound a warning growl if she thinks I'm annoyed with her and approaching.
When she learned what "Sit" is, part of
reinforcing dominance was to make her sit before putting on or taking off
the leash or going outside. She has to wait until I say it is okay for
her to go outside. "Amie, let's go outside". This prevents her from dashing
out the door as soon as anyone opens it and she looks to me to give my
It was very important to get a document from my sister about canine companion work dogs (Canine Companions for Independence: Social Dog Manual c 1986). My sister adopted a dog that had been trained as a work dog. The manual empowered me to not be afraid of Amie but to recognize her native intelligence. The manual said that when you crouch or squat and speak to the dog, the dog sees this as a submissive position. Amie listens to me very closely, though, when my eyes are at her level and she's not looking up.
It was a relief to learn that dogs want to please. Dogs want to please so it is my job to let her know what I want from her. Knowing that, I would tell Amie "Kakker like..." or "Kakker no like..." Amie seemed to listen more to information that included Kakker's likes and no likes. Emphasis is on Kakker LIKE, Kakker NO like. It works.
One dog trainer said you can teach hand signals to dogs so that you don't even have to speak. I haven't found a book or tape about dog hand signals, but when I could think one up, I've used it consistency. I rub the side of my face by my mouth with my knuckles and say "Good girl'. That's where she gets rubbed when I'm holding her and say "Good girl". I rub the flat of my hand in circles over my upper chest and say "Kakker likes Amie", the same way as when I rub her. Hand out with palm facing her means "Stay". Hand with palm down and slowly lowered from the elbow means "Sit". The "Come" signal hasn't taken yet. I would like to know of other hand signals to use.
"Ummm" sounds always brings her closer to me. I pet her and say "Ummmm" and she can barely stand the ecstasy of love.
She picks up new words very fast. She has
and needs frequent eye cleaning and drops. When I ask Jeff if Amie has
had her eye make-up, she will hide. I think she picked that up after the
first dose. (See Amie's
She humps a leg when she doesn't want us
to go. She lightly chews Jeff's slipper when she doesn't want him to go
to work. When she chews the napkin under her dish, she wants food. When
she has just eaten and she stares at me, she wants more. When she sniffs
around, she wants to urinate. When she sniffs herself, he wants to defecate.
She puts her paws on my knee and digs a little when she wants up on my
lap. She runs around in a circle near the bed when she wants to be put
on it to lie in the sunbeams. She head-butts our chest after eating to
show her appreciation. If I ask, "Amie no feel good?" and she makes a low
growl, I know she does not want to be bothered because she has a fever
or is otherwise not up to par. When she's out for a walk on the leash and
sits down, she needs to urinate. What else does she try to say that haven't
yet figured out?
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