August 4th, 2015
As first time dog owners, we get very excited when Bailey masters a command. Such mastery happens after lots of practice, rewards and praise. It means being patient and learning to handle the disappointment when she ignores your command. Situations like this one usually happen in front of a person that you were trying to demonstrate how well-trained your puppy can be. Bailey has acquired an extensive repertoire of commands from our standpoint. She can sit, lie down, stand and stay as well as do a lie down stay and sit stay. Her vocabulary also includes wipe (used to call her over to clean up her drool with a rag), come , bring, leave it , heel and gentle (a handy term to use when she is grabbing a treat from your hand). The all-time favourite one of ours is “kisses” which Bailey has no trouble providing on command. I think it is Bailey’s favourite word besides “belly rub”. Bailey is a work in progress – two steps forward, one step back. It is not just Bailey who is learning from her mistakes. All of us are guilty of using the wrong command word or giving a poorly timed reward while training her at times.
That being said, Bailey recently made her wishes to go outside known by ringing a bell hung from the entry room door knob. After weeks of coaching her, I was taken by surprise when it finally occurred without being initiated by a person. You see we were concerned that she would sit quietly by the door and wait for someone to notice her need to go out. We failed horribly in this area. She had a few accidents in the house so I knew something had to be done. I scrounged up a bell that was originally mounted on the handlebars of my son’s bike. I mounted the bell on a padded cloth to prevent the metal scrapping the door.
Over the past 14 weeks, Bailey had been working towards ringing the bell to alert us. I think the family thought she would learn overnight. She didn’t. I optimistically replied, “Just give her time.” I had a plan to attach a treat to the bell at first. If it smelt good, I hoped that Bailey would be more willing to take a closer look. I had to get down on my hands and knees to demonstrate ringing the bell with my nose. Thankfully, no one was around to capture that pose on film. She did it after a bit of hesitation at first. When it rang, I quickly rewarded Bailey with another treat while praising her. I eliminated placing a treat on the bell after the first week. The bell was beginning to emit an odor. Each time that Bailey was taken out, she had to ring the bell. It was frustrating at times because Bailey would have a few good bell rings and then nothing – a blank stare. Or, her nudge was too soft to make bell ring loudly for us to hear in another part of the house. I was still determined.
I caught on to Bailey’s attempts to ring the bell in order to get a treat without having to go out. We came to an understanding that if the bell was rung, she went out. At this point, I thought it might be best to not treat every time. Although Bailey was happy to be told she was a good girl, she still wanted the treat.
I was forced to push her through the door way a couple of times before she gave up holding out for a treat – stubborn as a mule. Picking her up was not an option once she passed 40 pounds. Then one day, Bailey did it without being told to ring the bell or treated. Music to my ears. I responded quickly to her ring by opening the door. Bailey bolted into the garage and over to the outside door. Once outside, she got down to doing her stuff. She had succeeded as I knew she would. Does Bailey always do it? No. But, she has shown that it’s possible. We celebrate her success as a bell ringer apprentice. Next goal – master level.
P.S. At 27 weeks, Bailey is now 35.5 kg or 78 pounds 4 ounces.