Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weird dog commands

I forgot, somewhat, over the last couple months how much I miss interacting with my dog. During the first couple months we were at home, my roommate had taken over the dog. That is, the dog was living in a different part of the house. Alternately put, he was having sleepovers downstairs.

This came about for what I thought were reasonable reasons at the time. Patrick was not sleeping through the night and I thought the dog reacting to new baby would add unnecessary stress. To be honest, having him away was a relief on some levels.

Having him back, though, has been fantastic. I forgot how much I interact with the puppy on a regular basis -the constant reinforcement of behavior and modifications thereof.

The newest command that we're working on (don't ask me why I didn't do this years ago) is "go poop/pee". As in, snap of the fingers in a direction along with command. In past years I would let the dog outside to do his own thing and bring him in after 5-10 minutes. Or I would hang out with him in the back until he went to the washroom. This is less practical with the cold snaps that we've been having (it was -20C outside this morning) so I had to figure something out.

How do you train your dog to go to the washroom on command?
  1. Start with success. That is, wait until he really has to go before you start trying to train the behavior.
  2. Reinforce positive behavior with positive actions. Erik is very praise oriented and because he is not free-fed any food treats (i.e. piece of kibble, chunk of discarded green pepper) make him very happy.
  3. Continually reinforce the same standard. Given that I have obsessive compulsive behavior this is fairly trivial for me.
  4. Add to the behavior once the dog is consistently performing. In Erik's case after a week or so I realized that I didn't like him pooping so close to my carport so started the snapping and pointing to indicate direction. It took him a day or so to grasp what I was indicating but now I can quickly turn him around whenever he gets within 10' of me.
This is not for everyone but changing bathroom breaks from 5-10 minutes to a minute even alone made it worthwhile for me. The added benefit of directing his waste somewhat is also satisfying in its own way.

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