Friday, March 26, 2010

Why "Settle"?

I thought I should follow up on what we're doing with Dart's behavior training.

First off, I'm not planning on taking him to formal obedience classes. Partly because I'm cheap and don't want to pay for them, but also because I have pretty extensive experience with dog training and feel capable of this.

I did several years of Dog Training through our local 4-H group, and was even the Junior Leader for the Dog Care program. Plus I medaled in 4-H for my record book under the Dog Training program.

My teacher from 4-H was quite qualified to teach dog obedience to kids because she showed her dogs professionally and had a room full of ribbons to prove it. She had at one point 3 Manchester Terriers she showed, and a rescue French Bulldog (the rescue was named "Mabeline" aka "Maybe" as in "maybe we'll keep her, maybe we won't). And before the little dogs she had a Dalmatian that was her pride and joy.

My mom signed me up for the course without asking me, but I liked it enough that I kept up with it, and I ended up going through dog training with 2 different dogs. First was our shelter rescue Sandy (a beagle mix), and then our inherited dog Mugsy (a Boston Terrier). Both had excellent behavior, and I feel confident Dart and I will do just fine.

I do confess to some differences. My 2 dogs growing up were quite a bit older when they started Dog Training with me, so they were more mature and less hyper. In Sandy's case he had been part of my family for many years - I was 3 when we got him, so I don't really remember him ever being a "bad" dog (I guess maybe my parents would have a different opinion). In Mugsy's case he was my grandfather's dog and went everywhere with Grandpa, so most of his behavior was already modified to suit an older man. Except for chewing stuff up, I don't remember a lot of bad behavior from Mugsy either.

When splorp! and I went to the shelter to find a dog, our only real criteria was we wanted a smaller dog since our backyard is not huge, and we were actively looking for one that was not a puppy. The "no puppy" partly because I have never done housebreaking and I really didn't want to, and partly because we were hoping to give a home to a dog who would not otherwise find a home. We picked Dart more for his temperment than anything else, and figured we would work everything else out as we went along.

As a result of our guessing game at the shelter, Dart is quite a bit younger and more hyper than I am used to, which does try my patience sometimes, but he seems to pick up on things fairly quickly - mostly when there is a food treat involved!

As far as his training goes we're sticking to the basics, and will gradually introduce some fun tricks and hopefully some off-leash heeling (someday). But I did depart from my teacher's list with the "settle" command.

This is actually one I picked up from one of my dog-and-house-sitting clients, Livy's dad. He was the first one I ever heard using the word "settle" for the command "lie down". And when you think about it, it makes a great deal of sense.

It goes like this: when you want a dog to lie down on its belly you tend to tell it "down" and drop a food treat to encourage the good behavior. But that word is more than a little misleading to the dog, because you will often find yourself saying "go lay down" (as in get out of my way) or "get down" (as in get off the table) or just "down" (as in "stop jumping on me") or any number of other instructions that have the word "down" in them.

By using the word "settle" you are giving him or her a specific duty and they are not confused by what you want them to do. Plus it reserves the word "down" for correcting some of those other unwanted behaviors.

And let's face it, when you say "down" in regards to your dog you're usually going to be saying it in a cranky voice like "get down from there you bad dog!"

So substituting "settle" for "lie down" is just a good little variation on a common command.

1 comment:

Gayle Ficarra Wolcott said...

Great story, enjoyed every bit.