I have a smart dog.
He’s a miniature poodle, and we’ve been doing trick training since he was a pup. He earned his first trick dog title at 8 months old. Now we’re working on his Trick Dog Championship and there are a couple of foundation things I realize I had not taught him. Since they’re needed for his championship video, I had to teach them.
Last night, I decided we would learn “hold an object in your mouth.” There are a couple of options to show this. He could walk with me with an object for 10 seconds or stationary hold something for 6 seconds. First, I tried just having him walk with his ball. He is capable of holding a ball indefinitely, but, he wants to give it to me to throw, so keeping it and walking up and down the hall at my side did not work.
I switched to the dowel. Holding a dowel is a foundation for carrying a dumb-bell which is a basic competitive obedience skill. I had been shown how to teach this and had a dowel, but I had never tried it with Kiltti. I filled a bowl of Cheerios (our training treat) and called him over. I attempted to put the dowel in his mouth. He was having NONE of it. He ran off and refused to come to me. Evil lady with nefarious plotting in mind!
I went and got a leash. He welcomed the leash, and then regretted it when I led him back to the couch. I looped the leash around my leg, and we tried again. I opened his mouth and set the dowel behind his canines. I gently held his bottom jaw and told him how talented and amazing he was.
His eyes told me he was not stupid enough to believe any nice things I was saying. I let go the jaw, he spit out the dowel he was given lots of treats. We spent about 2 minutes on this, with his occasional attempts at escape foiled by the leash, and then he was released to go play ball.
An hour later, I picked him up and we did it again. This time I didn’t have to hold the bottom of the jaw. I told him how brilliant he was as I lengthened the time. 2 minutes and many Cheerios later, off he went.
Third time, no problem. I filmed him holding the dowel on his own for 12 seconds, twice the time required. He still thinks this is a stupid trick, but he does it.
This is such a metaphor for some of my more recalcitrant students! They spit out the dowel of whatever lesson we’re working on. They don’t care that it’s a building block that is necessary for something they will need to do later on.
Those students who will give a couple of minutes get the task over with, are free to move onto things they enjoy more. The next time they try the task, it’s easier. Still not thrilling, but again, it just takes a small effort of cooperation to get it done. Those kids get a decent report card. No missing assignments! In my class, that invariably means at least a B. Their reward is success!
But those kids who are still feverishly spitting out the dowel?
The obstacle only gets larger when you fight it. Growth comes with trying new things and trusting there’s a reason to know something, that knowledge is power.
Learning how to ‘suck it up and get it done’ is a valuable life skill.
Here is a scintillating video of Kiltti holding his dowel. 🙂 Excuse my voice. Still dealing with a cold. 🙂