Toilet StretchingMonday, November 24, 2008
No, toilet stretching isn’t some new plumbing innovation aimed at increasing the versatility of your crapper. It actually is a way I teach my dogs to give me a “sincere, all out, full-body-stretch.” Stick with me here, it really works. Years ago I tried to shape my dogs to stretch but it always ended up being only a play bow. Dog training while on the throne changed all that for me. Here’s how it works. If your dogs are anything like mine, they have to follow you everywhere you go around the house. Everywhere meaning, even when I take a trip to the loo. That is where I came up with the idea to start to capture behaviour. I recognized that when I jumped out of bed and dashed to the WC in the morning, my dogs, who would have just woke up themselves, would follow me in and do what dogs do first thing in the morning; stretch. Really, really, good stretching. You know the kind where the dog will sometimes point their rear legs out behind him. All out, front and rear stretching.
Since it was such a predictable behaviour from my dogs, and such a highly desired behaviour for me to see, I decided to start to stash cookies in a drawer in the bathroom so I could dog train from the can. Any dog that stretched in the morning would get showered in praise during the behaviour, and a cookie at the end (sometimes in the middle) of it. It doesn’t take long for the dogs to figure out the game and start to offer stretching any I take a trip to the powder room. (being a vegan, my dogs get ample opportunity for reinforcement:)). Soon the response becomes so strongly classically conditioned, that all I have to do is go and stand in the lavatory and my dogs will come in and stretch. Once it gets to this level of repeatability I added a cue. I will give the cue (b-i-g stretch) just before I assumed the position. Very quickly the dog learns to give me that stretch on cue. That is when I will try it outside of the little girls room. I will walk towards the facilities but stop, just outside of it, and give the dog my cue. I will not repeat it. If the dog doesn’t offer a stretch, I step inside and see if he will do it there. If not, opportunity lost, I will then go about my business, (so to speak) and not reward the dog with anything other than praise if he stretches after the fact.
It doesn’t matter if your dog’s main job in life is just to be your companion or if he is an active part of an athletic lifestyle, latrine stretching is a healthy activity to start with any dog. All of my dogs are active potty stretchers and many of them are offering it elsewhere now. It all starts in the restroom but you venture out to other locations in no time. Go ahead and give it a try, soon your husband will be referring to you as a “wack job” as well!
Today I am grateful for my family. We are not as close as we used to be, although we all still communicate via phone or email or facebook on a pretty regular basis. I guess that is normal when a family of 9 kids moves on with their own lives and families (if you could call a family of 9 kids normal). However, we had a great upbringing, I mean it was really something special. My parents were married for more than forty years before my mom passed away, and they were both great role models for all of us. Talk about stability, from 1960 up until my father was killed a car accident in 2006, the family homestead was only moved once, and that was literally across the street (from 174 to 175, my dad always liked the neighbour’s house:)). Amongst my parent’s siblings and my siblings there are 25 of us; and only 1 divorce (five of my brothers & sisters have all been married for more than 30 years themselves). I really feel blessed to have been born into such a spectacular family.