Doggie DictionSaturday, January 24, 2009
I talk to me dogs. I don’t mean I talk to my dogs the way normal people do, saying things like — ”yeah boy, get the stick”. I mean I talk to them like I expect, at any moment, they are about to answer back. I don’t talk this way all the time, but for important things I do. Look, the entire world knows that dogs can’t understand conversations and only know the cues we teach them or learn from the tone of voice that we use with them right? Of course I am right. But what if, even it is just one chance in a trillion, that everyone is wrong. What if all along they could understand every word that came out of our mouths? Wouldn’t you feel silly in the end if you knew you could have just said “Look, it is numbers 1 through 20, follow my lead, hit all the yellow zones and enter the poles with the first one on your left!” All that training and frustration for nothing! Okay maybe not, but I do talk to my dogs anyway. Every time I pack my suitcase to go to teach a seminar somewhere I, tell all the dogs that are not coming with me how many nights I would be gone. I would say something like “okay, this trip will be just three sleeps then da mama will be back home.” John thinks I am certifiable, but he loves me anyway.
When I train my dogs I talk to them in a different way. I have so much fun and so do the dogs. I think if you could rank the amount of enjoyment you got out of a training session from 1 -10 and based it on how many times you were happy or proud and how many times your dog appeared to be happy or proud (if that is possible) and you set goals for your training not so much upon “teaching a dogwalk” but rather, hitting an 8 or higher on the quality-of-fun-for-training scale, you possibly would end up with the best trained dog you have ever owned. I think that last sentence could very well be the longest sentence I have ever written in a blog. Heck, it may be up there for the longest one ever used in any blog in the history of the world! Anyway, there are those that train here at Say Yes that end up picking up some of our expressions and the intonations in which we speak to our dogs. Things like “good girlie, whirlie” or “to da mama” or “smack da baby” amoungst many weird others. If you have seen my DVD’s you know what I am talking about. It is contagious, we have so much fun with our dogs, so it is enviable that others will pick up on the way we play and the things that come out of our mouths. It is a crack up.
When I really want to get one of my dogs going, (which I will admit gets John going in a different direction if I do this in the house) I tell one of my dogs,
“co’mere, mama gonna talk diry to you.” So lets say it is Encore, I get her close to me then I whisper things like: “wally” which is dog-talk for her jolly-ball–in Encore’s opinion the most amazing toy on the planet. Or I may tell her “buffy” which is dog-talk for her ball-with-feet--2nd place to the wally. Or “frisser” which of course refers to her frisbee– which is very distant, a long distance away from having the value of either the buffy or the wally. The expression “go-for-a _____” is another guaranteed over-the-top-reaction from the dog. You can fill in the blank here, it could be: “swim” or “run” or “walk” it really doesn’t matter for the “go-for-a” is all the dog ever needs to hear to know ‘she wants in!’ “Swimming” is a great one to get the head tilt thing working and “weavers” is easily her favourite agility obstacle “the daddy” is her favourite person on the planet (next to me, I would like to think). All this is like doggie telephone porn to them. It gets the dog so worked up, really I only do it like once a year but it makes me laugh so much.
I think talking dirty to your dogs is fun, but make sure you don’t abuse the privilege or you will lose the impact. If you have words you know will crank your dog up you can then use them in your training to produce a ton of drive when you need it. I have a game called the “smoke ya” game that is described in Shaping Success. Often, before I start this game of chase I will take a long deep inhalation. That intake of breath soon becomes a cue to my dogs that something very fast and very fun is about to start. Once you have these triggers you can use them for key moments. For example I will use one for DeCaff at the start line to get more drive in an important class. I will avoid them with dogs like Encore or Buzzy who tend to get “too over-the-top” Try it with your own dog. You will need at least a week or two of “planting” the seed of anticipation before you can uncork it to get the dog jazzed up. But it really does work!
Today I am grateful for a much needed Saturday off, giving me a chance to get caught up on my life at home!