Saturday, March 13, 2010

Delighted by Training

It has been a fantastic few weeks of pet sitting some really amazing pets. The more I work with dogs and cats, the more I see their intelligence and depth of feeling.

I have 3 dogs and 2 cats of my own. Annabelle, our newest (formerly our foster dog - but we fell in love with her) is learning some obedience commands. Loki and Fiona know a lot of this stuff already, so they're playing along, too, sitting on command, laying down, and so on. We had a lot of fun playing together, but it was also fun to observe the dogs and see the little lightbulbs go on over their heads as they learn (and refine) commands.

I taught Loki & Fiona to hi-five, which is a fun, easy, and impress-your-friends-cool kind of trick. When I first started teaching Loki, he needed lots of encouragement to jump up, and then to tap me with his paw. But after a few little sessions every day, he was getting it. He would hit me with his paws, just not on my hands. So then I got him to the point where I would only reward him if he tapped my hand. I could see, over a few sessions, how he would refine his technique to get that treat!

I am not a dog trainer, I just do this for fun with my dogs. The challenge of learning new things gives them mental exercise, and the treats I reward them with make them happy. I love bonding with them and watching them figure things out. I do these little training sessions in five- to ten-minute blocks of time during the day, squeezed in before or after dinner, on the way to the mailbox, whenever it seems that the dogs need some activity.

Maybe in a month or two we'll have learned a new trick. But if not, that's fine, time with pets is NEVER wasted.

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