|As the single parent of two large and lovable dogs, I've discovered that I have inadvertantly trained them with behaviour association techniques. Quite literally, I can sing my pets a Pavlovian melody. I'll let you into our training strategy.
During dog brushing (which my pets always cherish), and with the putting on and taking off collars, my dogs, my companions for ten and twelve years respectively have taught me the routine. They have come to expect my version of their favourite songs as we interact.
Hearing the songs prepare my dogs for what they aqre about to do., and gets them in the mood for the upcoming activity. Does your dog get excited about putting a collar on. With the sound a jingling metal chain collarof a certain song from me, they know what's going to happen before it starts. Those things creative problem-solving concepts they teach in school can carry over to real life.
Despite my inability to carry a tune, the dogs respond with all the enthusiasm of a couple of classic rockers at a 1980 Lynard Skynard concert. It's "dog party" time! And the Dog Mama has her bottom planted firmly on the floor, and her face is absent of eye glasses, so Mama's face is fair play for licking. I once had a Beagle who befriended a Rotweiller so the little guy could paly house underneath. When it's "Doggie Love- In Time," there will be wagging, licking, faughing, and more cardio workout than you'd think
Both the baby Shepherd, "Shadow," and the Lab Shepherd mix, wear "choke" collars that slip over the head then around the neck. Some dogs resist attempts to be rounded up. However, when I start out with . . .
"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,
His name is my name too.
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,
His name is my name,
His name is my name,
His name is my name tooooo . . . "
they both come running to me from wherever they are. They wiggle and waggle their way, noses nudging, to be the first to have the collar put on or taken off.
Yes, I have adjusted the words and tune a bit from the original children's song. But by emphasizing words repeatedly, with musical effort towards my own sing-song melody, the dogs recognize that it's time to deal with collars. The produce the biggest tail wags and shiny eyes when I sing. What an audience!
"John" and "Shadow" offer noses into the jingling outstretched chain loop of collar. Seldom do either dodge the easy catch.
This singing routine began by happenstance, but has come in very handy when the dogs need to be corraled in a hurry--like when I see a delivery man approaching my unscreened front door.
The delivery persons usually stop about halfway up the sidewalk to the porch, about 15 feet, in front of the two loudly barking big dogs. Since the screen is torn, both dogs stick their heads right out the front door, barking furiously.
If a delivery person ever heard me singing, they might question my balladeering at such a loud level, or have a good laugh at me. It works for me, which ever way..
"Big Bad John," the Lab Shepherd mix, has been my near constant companion since I adopted him from the Dallas Humane Society four years ago. He is what is called a "velcro dog," as explained by the Dallas ASPCA. Everywhere I go in the house "John" goes, and "Shadow" is stuck to him. We make quite a train through the narrow hallway of the house.
John recognizes the word "jingles" as the name for what goes around his neck. "Jingles" are always stored in the same place. I'm working on recognizing "bling bling" as an alternative vocabulary word.
If the jingles are off, and I happen to kick them a bit in their spot between the sofa and coffee table, sleeping dogs will wake.
Eyes alert, eyebrows and accompanying whiskers arched, they look as if to say, "What 'cha want? I'm ready! Yes, you have my complete attention!" The eagerness of a dog to please is difficult to put into words. If you're a "dog person," you know.
"John" enthusiastically noses his way into his collar when he hears the jingles jingle, or his song. He sits, head hung patiently low, when it's time to remove the collar.
He likes wearing his jingles, prefering to have them on, rather than off. I don't know if he feels naked without his jewelry, or if he's afraid he's not going to be my dog anymore.
"Big Bad John" came to me having been obviously abused by his previous owner. But now, he is the most friendly 86 pound dog you could meet. He enjoys sitting with a group of people, and being part of the "den." He responds to loud voices by cowering, turning full belly up, indicating to me that he had some kind negative experience. He had an "omega" experice before me.
Someone beat rules into this dog. He was estimated to be 1 - 1 1/2 years old when I got him. He weighed 68 pounds. His coat was thin and shabby.
His big, long, black nose had been rubbed raw from poking through the chain-link fence, trying to get attention at the animal shelter. His nose still carries the scars, being pink around the sides.
He was an "orange dot special," the September day I went to the Humane Society in Dallas and deliberated if I might like a larger dog as a means of protection, as well as companionship. I learned some of the advantages of having a big dog while sharing homestead with a roommate who owned one.
If animals have not been adopted from the city shelter after three months they are euthanized. An "orange dot special" is an animal facing imminient reincarnation prospects.
I've always felt that if I hadn't taken "Johnny" home, he would have been in doggie heaven that night. As it stands, we've had a great companionship since.
Puppyhood is a difficult time for all who endure it. Chewing, and other annoying and destructive behaviour, is inevitable. His previous owner had trained "John" on several commands. I feel like he probably knows some commands he hasn't taught me yet.
There's nothing like rolling on the floor with a big dog, or two--if you have the space. It's a karma energy charger! Licks and pokes later, we're all envigorated.
If you were able to hit the low notes of his own personal name song, "Big Bad John" would smack you a big wet slobery kiss, right across the lips. He likes his song.
If you were seated on the sofa or recliner in the living room, you might be pinned to your spot. "John" often plops his front half onto the lap of particularly interesting smelling individuals who are visiting. He knows if our friends have had a hamburger or chips before their arrival. He always goes for the mouth with his tongue.
I don't doubt his huge feet, and nails, did plenty of damage during his puppyhood. He has large feet, and paw hang ups.
He won't shake hands. He won't let you touch his paw, much less hold it. He will, however, rest his front leg against an outstretched elbow, and pant the happiest look of contentment you could imagine.
"John" recognizes the Saturday afternoon Western theme music of "Rawhide." For years, on Saturdays, I have taken a two minute aerobic freestyle dance routine with "John" as my partner.
During our first summer together, I began my day watching "The Monkees" on television. That theme song was another to which we danced. He's a wonderful short term dance partner.
"John" surprised me once by his immediate arrival at my side when I played the song on the turntable, having run across my old albums. It's as if he helps me to be a kid.
The only pleasure my dog asks of me is grooming. This is another situation that is often black and white for dog owners. Either the dog likes to be brushed and combed, or he doesn't. My animals like to be fussed over.
The Waitresses' song, "I Know What Boys Want," lends itself well to my loud nasal version of
"I Know What "John" Wants, I know what "John" likes."
He presents himself for brushing like a soldier. He is patient with meticulous flea comb work on his coat, excepting for the occassional yip if I pull. "Shadow" has to wait to be second for brushing. He'll tollerate a long time of me on the floor with the brush and comb. He reminds me of my grandmother combing my long hair as a child.
As two perceptive beings, grooming is an emotional as well as physical process for both of us. After brushing my dog, I have a softness and intensity of the heart, as well as a beautiful pet.
I wouldn't want to live with my God, -er dogs (I'm sometimes dyslexic).