We’ve been having fun with training over the last month! I taught Luke how to “back up”, we had a breakthrough with nail trimming, and we took this month’s Positive Reinforcement Training Week’s challenge to teach your pet something new in ten minutes.
I wanted to do “back up” just for fun. When I first started it, just walking towards Luke to get him to back up, all he wanted to do was jump or he’d move off to the side. We didn’t get far in the first session, but he was clicked and treated if he took even one step backwards. As seems typical with him, by our second session he was getting it better. Once I had him doing it, for fun I added the command “beep, beep”, like a truck backing up! We don’t have it perfected yet, but we’re making progress. If he doesn’t back up at the voice command, I sometimes still take one step towards him and that usually works. Luke responds more to gestures than verbal cues sometimes.
I decided to take a little video. We played for over 5 minutes, and I picked out the clips where he did the best and put them together. Not the greatest video….my multi-tasking skills aren’t the best. One thing he does that is funny, is he’ll often back up, and then jump. I think this goes back to his high five training, for “all ten” where he gives me both paws. When Luke isn’t sure what I want, he’ll just throw something in there that he knows. I think it’s so cute.
My constant “beep, beep” in the video might be annoying, sorry. When I was watching the whole video myself (it is only one minute long now), I noticed two things. I was constantly laughing and calling Luke silly or a nut, and he just looks happy throughout. We were having FUN and that was the important thing!
A couple of months ago I wrote how I was working on handling Luke’s paws so we could do nail trims. I was making progress, but those nails needed to be trimmed, and the progress just wasn’t fast enough. I remembered a post I had read once from Maggie at Oh My Dog!, called “Peanut Butter Plate”. In short, you smear a bunch of peanut butter on a plate, and let the dog lick it off while you trim their nails. This works! If you’d like the detailed instructions, please visit Maggie’s blog by clicking here. This was a complete breakthrough with Luke and by the second time we tried it, I was able to trim every one of his nails, and by the third I was even able to go back and even them out some. Next time I’m going to try to add some filing as well. He will still occasionally try to pull his paw away from me, but I persist and he’ll give in. I am thrilled and so grateful to Maggie for sharing this! I highly recommend giving it a try if you have this same issue.
Just a couple notes: I have a grooming table, but using this bench actually works quite well for me (doing it on the floor hurts my back). When Luke was younger, he was leaping on and off that table too much, so I put it away for a while. I haven’t tried this technique yet with the girls, because they’re pretty good with nail trims, but it seems only fair that they should get peanut butter while having it done too!
Finally, for the Training Week’s challenge, I decided to see if I could train Luke to close doors. We started out with a sticky note on a cabinet door, and click and treat if he would touch the note with his nose (you can have them do it with their paws as well, but I didn’t want scratches on my doors). By the end of our first 10 minute session he was easily touching the note for a treat. After he had that down, I opened the door part way. It was more challenging the next time to get him to touch it hard enough to actually close the door. I had to experiment a bit with the placement of the note so the door would close more easily, and we’re still working on this, and making progress. He is not closing it every time, but sometimes, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get there after a few more sessions. Once he’s pushing harder, I’ll open the door wider and then we’ll try with different doors as well.
When Luke gets frustrated, he’ll lie down. That’s when I know it’s time to end our session, or that I may be moving too quickly. We’ll back up a bit and end on a high note, and I always find that when we get to the next session (which is often a few days later), he remembers right where we left off. He’ll touch that note as soon as he sees it, so we just have to work on getting him to touch harder and close the door. At the end of today’s session he had done it a few times so I have a feeling next time we’ll definitely get further.
We’re happy to be joining Positive Reinforcement Pet Training Week. It begins on the first Monday of every month and runs all week long. This week they are holding a giveaway for a $75 training prize pack, so be sure to go to the hosts’ blog and enter! The hop is hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Rubicon Days. Please visit them as well as other blogs through the links below for more positive pet training tips.