Tansy will get a special spot on our farm page. My goal has been to write about training Tansy so that other puppy owners or future puppy owners might glean some ideas from what we've learned! Both Benji and Lorna have had the same input to one degree or another. My style is rather eclectic, and though I've been asked to aid in some situations, I am not officially certified or schooled in any method. However, what we do here on the farm works really well for us! I've read many, many, many good books on dog training... and some bad. I've trained many different kinds of dogs also from Rhodesian Ridgeback to Staffordshire Terrier, Great Pyrenees, herding mixes, and more. Our Old Time Scotch Collies have been a joy and are easy to train. Tansy has been no different so far, and I imagine that we will post many installments as we make progress together.
Before I start, I would like say that if you expect your dog to have some grit on the farm, that you also should expect your pup/dog to challenge you on occasion. Fairness and asking and love go a long way with these dogs in communication and obedience, but occasionally, you will have to put your "foot down" and insist on your dog being consistent on commands as you are consistent in following up. Especially at the beginning as everyone is learning about this new relationship. Consistency is Key! Relationship is Key! Spend lots of time just loving on your dog and showing them that they can rely on you for direction and safely. Your dog will not turn out better than you are at making sure they understand your expectations. And we are training all the time! Whether or not we're meaning to! All important things to keep in mind.
When Tansy first came home with us, we let her settle and wander about some. Learning a new home and missing family and mom are hard. We took her around the property and talked to her as though she could understand so that she would learn our voices and heft to her new home. We right away started training at her mealtimes. The empty heart and spaces needed to be filled, and we started simply by holding a piece of kibble right next to our eyes and saying her name, "Tansy" with a smile and light and slightly higher voice. Even excitably if she was distracted. After all, her name did not yet mean anything to her! Of course, a hungry pup will look right for the kibble which gave us an edge. When you have this treasure, but then you don't give it to them, the wheels start turning. "Why?" Tansy questioned and looked right into our eyes beside the kibble. Immediately I praise her and give her the treat. In a circle we go with every member of the family doing the same act. And so the bonding begins and solid eye contact is established! (By the way, this can easily be done with older dogs that need rehabilitating as well.) Nothing significant will be accomplished without a strong connection and bond, and this is the best place that we have found to start! The eyes communicate so much more than we realize as we ask for tasks to be completed, or just are expressing how our dog's actions effect us. Perhaps this is part of why Benji and Lorna are less eager to work well when we are trying to film. "Is Mom happy?" "What's going on back there?" Tansy soon learned to bound up and look deep into our eyes even if our hands were other places. Good girl Tansy! She became a little less sad and started to give more hugs and watch faces more.
After eye contact, "Come" is easy - sometimes even taught at the same time! Eyes lock eyes at name and bounding to get treats and connect is the heart of many puppies. Tansy was no exception. "Come" is an absolutely crucial command that will be reinforced consistently for a long period of time here. This command saves lives, and it is important to be consistent from the beginning. Here is where I will introduce a line for Tansy to drag and keep the treats handy. In fact, right after receiving her, Tansy learned to drag a line. Dragging a line allows the trainer to correct most consistently with the least amount of negative impact. We all know that chasing a dog will only teach it to run, and I know that I cannot easily catch a dog no matter what the age! I never want a dog to think that moving quickly away from me is positive. And although it can be tempting depending on the trouble, never scold a pup that readily repents and comes to you when called! This is the last thing the pup did and it should be positively reinforced. I love lines for training. Tansy will not always wear her line, but she will be using this line for awhile. I can do a little tug if she does not respond to "No" when headed to the trash can, etc. And as a sidetone, puppies like to chew! Chewing the line is never OK. I will gently pop the line so it is uncomfortable in the pup's mouth and have an alternative in hand to offer her instead. Bones are great!
Now to manners. Something important to start out with in the same way as you would want them finished. Rebecca, Tansy's breeder, had already worked hard with these pups using Puppy Culture. Tansy already knew that being polite was important, but we were new people and everything was a bit overwhelming. Tansy knew that a fist above her head often held treats if she would only be calm and sit. She also knew that this was the best way to get pets and love. Lorna, however, did not come with that extra step ahead, and so we taught her from scratch. An easy thing to do! Let the pup smell the treat in you hand and raise it up ever so slightly until the pup lands in a natural sitting position when reaching for the treat. If the pup tries to climb your hand for the treat, remove the pup and gently say no. It is amazing how quickly "Sit" can be taught when you pair the word with the action and immediately give the reward when their bum hits the ground. Timing is everything!
One thing that we have learned to do differently from most. We always immediately pair a command with "Free." (We learned this from a book called Dog Training with the Touch.) With young dogs, this word immediately follows the command. As they get older, I will stretch the time between "Sit-Free," "Lay-Free," etc., asking for the pup to remain in requested position until the I say "Free," spreading out the fingers of my hands like they are mimicking an explosion - sort of like the explosion of energy from the pup after practicing being still for a time! This exercise is easier to do with a second person at first especially. Make sure you have your line on the pup so that you can efficiently put your pup back in position when learning. In essence, we never say stay with the common usage! Actually, this method is so, so, so much easier for a pup to understand in general also and gives far better results as far as we have seen. This allows the common "Stay" to be much quicker learned with far less confusion on pup's end. I will begin to give the treat after releasing pup from the position. "Free! Good girl Tansy! That was a long sit!"
Lay is next in order. Long sits are hard on the body. It's important to add lay for will-power endurance and to have something new for the pup's mind to switch between. This one is a bit tricky. I really, really, really like the dog to think that this movement is the pup's idea. It is a submissive move and one that feels like a challenge. I have found that I always get better long-term results if I ask for a lay and wait for the pup to figure out what gives that "instant" reward. For lay, I will have a flat hand with my thumb tucked under holding the treat. I try to say the word only minimally as I want the dog to not expect that much repetition is required for obedience. This is the beginning though. Some repeating and extra communication efforts will be required. I take my hand and bring it flat to the ground in this new position. (Gradually, later I will have my hand in a higher and higher position until she understands this hand signal while I am standing.) Tansy sits like a good girl, but doesn't get her treat. Hmm, she thinks. She smells and tries to push her nose under my hand which remains on the ground. She paws. This obviously needs more thought and effort. Tansy decides to get on treat level to get a better view and figure this out.... As soon as those elbows and rear hit the ground the treat appears and we lavishly praise her! There is a bit more wait time to this command as Tansy is a bit stubborn sometimes. But her lead will not allow her to leave until she fulfills her instructions and a solid "Free" following. Soon enough Tansy gets the gist and lays and sits and stays ("Free") like crazy. Eating is fun! Three meals a day. Three training sessions a day. What a life! (Not everyone can do this many. I have found two to be sufficient also.)
Lastly, I will add roll over. Roll over may seem like a silly command, but when my dogs are older, if I ask them to roll over, I know that we are all cheerful and have a great relationship. It's a position of trust. Tansy has a head-start. Benji will turn and roll for every treat he can get! He may have missed his calling as an agility dog. Tansy has watched Benji, but is still not sure that she wants to do such a silly and effort-filled action that leaves her vulnerable. I will point my finger with the treat tucked under my other fingers and draw a circle. "Roll-over!" We show her the smell and try to have her start from a laying position following the finger in a circle. Sometimes helping hands are required. She soon gets the idea, though patience is needed. Cheese makes it all worth it in the end!
Now adorable Tansy will roll over just for fun and, I think, to enchant us! Tansy has one weakness besides cheese. The laughter of children! She cannot resist a giggle or heartfelt burst of mirth! She will leave anything including cheese to come and join in the fun and laughter! She will climb to tell you she wants to be a part, to be full of the same joys together. She will smile big and hug you all over in her own very special way. I think Tansy has learned to roll like a tornado without being asked just to make us all laugh and smile. We have learned a lot together and have a long way to go, but who could ask for a better start! Good girl Tansy!!!
Pictures of Tansy learning good impulse control after getting closer to mastering a solid "lay." Notice, she is wearing her lead though! The chicken is not quite so amused.
This blog chronicles our very full life here on WoodSong Farm. We will share everything from dog to sheep stories, unique wooly works, to animal husbandry tips we pick up along the way. I hope this helps to give you an idea of what our extended farm family and wooly projects are like, and that we may somehow benefit everyone who reads about our journey.