Project Look! Loooook! Look!

I had this bright idea that with all my free time, I could do some sort of terribly fascinating project and write about it.  I would learn something wonderful, develop some fantastic skills, and have accomplished something, and you all would be glued to your computer screens, so entranced that you could hardly peel your eyes away from my retelling of my daily experience with this project…

Let’s just say that Day 1 of the project will not live up to that goal.

Here’s the idea: I am working my way through a dog training book with Daphne. Post-practice, I will regale you with the ups and downs of this amazingly interesting adventure. And, of course, by “regale you with… this amazingly interesting adventure” I mean “try to make it sound interesting that I taught my dog to look me in the eye for 1.5 seconds.”

the beautiful beast herself

Okay, but seriously: our dog is super smart.  Really.  I know I’ve talked about how high-maintenance she is, how she’s got a few issues and may or may not have nipped a child (one time! Just one time!), and how I for sure know what it’s like to have a dog who is reactive on leash. But. In spite of her being a little unpredictable in strange environments, she is actually pretty awesome and very smart: she knows at least 20 commands (I made a list and counted!) and can do at least 4 of them with 95% accuracy.

That said, she is still a bit neurotic, and she also has at least 16 commands that she does with accuracy that ranges from 60% to… well, let’s say that she’s capable of doing some of them, but not always willing.  Or ever willing.  Minor detail.

Daph and I demonstrate "touch" (my facial expression here is awesome, in case you hadn't noticed).

So the idea is that by working our way through this book, we can strengthen and reinforce skills she has, develop some new skills, give her a good mental workout, and help us bond and learn to communicate better.  The more she trusts me in the house, the more she’ll trust me out in the world, and – fingers crossed – the less reactive she’ll be.

The book we’re working with is Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog by Emma Parsons.  I originally noticed the book at a small local bookstore a few years ago because it was the only book that utilized clicker training; I ended up buying it after recognizing some of Daphne’s reactive tendencies and realizing that Turtle was no longer comfortable walking her without me there.  We read through it and boosted our own confidence, but didn’t do much beyond that at the time.

Now, I plan to go through the book and practice every single thing that Daphne hasn’t already nailed.  For example, she has “sit” down pat.  She sits for everything: before eating, before going through doorways, before getting in or out of the car.  Nothing in life is free, but it’s all easily purchased for the low, low price of Sit.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, today we worked on “look,” which is a command to make eye contact.  It’s much more useful than it sounds, but it also sounds pretty boring.  Suffice it to say that she is now pretty good at making eye contact for 1.5 seconds.  Hopefully the tricks get more exciting, the progress gets more worth talking about, and you are fascinated by me talking about my dog.  Because I’m unemployed, I think I want to do this for a living, and the internet is my playground.

This is almost definitely never ever going to turn into a mommy blog or a food blog… but it seems it might turn into some version of a dog blog.  I hope you stick around.  In the meantime, who wants to talk dog training? Are you in?

*Note: all photos by our amazing and talented wedding photographer and fabulous friend Ellie Leonardsmith.  She obviously takes wonderful photos, and has recently started doing pet portraits; if you’re in the Boston area, check her out!


Filed under Menagerie

22 responses to “Project Look! Loooook! Look!

  1. Oh the hysterical antics to come. It’s a good project. Thumbs up 🙂

  2. I want to talk dog training! I’m reading Cesar Milan’s book right now and I’m curious as to your thoughts on his approach- basically, we are the dog’s pack leader and if we are not the dominant one in the relationship, the dog will try to play that role simply because a pack always has a leader…It’s interesting but I’m not sure if I agree with everything he says (like that you should always go out the door first before your dog…I tried that yesterday and almost squished my little 10-pound terrier mix into oblivion, thanks to a heavy, swinging door!)

    • Oh good! I want to talk dog training too! So glad it’s not just me. I started reading some Cesar Milan just to see what his deal was, and basically I am pretty anti-C.M. after doing some reading of his stuff and of stuff other people have written about him. I’m not sure where the paper is, but some national behavior organization denounced him in a pretty eloquently written paper. But! I think that you can probably just take what he says with a grain of salt. This was an interesting article about humans as pack:
      I think there’s a lot to the idea that dogs need structure and clear rules, which I hope to talk about more later! I could really talk about all of this forEVER.

    • Also, your puppy is ADORABLE. If you don’t want her, just ship her up to Boston, please. kthx 🙂

  3. Kim

    Hey darling,
    You know I’m excited to read about Daphne! I’m glad to hear you are doing well in your f-unemployment. I recently worked with Macaroni when I went back to DC to visit my parents – she’s still there because she really can’t be alone, she gets too unhappy and stressed. 😦 But I worked with her and she is the same way as Daphne, she can do some tricks all the time and others she knows how to do but really has to think about whether it’s worth doing. I also learned the value of consistency, my parents “spoil” her more than I do and as a result she is less well behaved for them.
    Lastly, I learned how attached and wonderful a shelter dog can be. Despite the fact that I had not seen her in almost 4 months, Macaroni not only remembered me but followed me around exclusively. Every time I would get up and leave a room, she would get up and follow me despite the fact that the rest of my family remained in that room.
    She’s such a little love bug and I miss her. I’m so glad you’re getting to spend more time with Daphne. Give her a cuddle from me!


  4. Daphne is beautiful. Just wanted to get that out there.

    I would love to learn how to manage/control/train my miniature poodle. Hannah was always pretty good with commands (sit, stay, come), but Jackson just doesn’t listen. The big thing I want to get him to do is come on command. So often, we let him out in the back yard, and he sees a squirrel and spends 30-45 minutes barking at the fence where the squirrel was last seen, even when he is long gone. I try to call him to come inside, and he just ignores me completely. I read something recently about whistle training – I may try that. If I can get him to respond to voice commands, I can take him to an off leash dog park near our house.

    • Aww thanks! We’re still working with Daph on “here”. One thing that helped a lot in the beginning was taking her to a fenced-in park and calling her over, giving her a treat, and letting her keep running. The only thing she had to do for the treat was come over to get the treat. As awesome as that sounds, sometimes things are more interesting that treats for the sake of treats, but it’s a good starting point! Let me know how the whistle training goes!

  5. Sue B

    I’m all over dog training and will do it with you with the girls.!

  6. Julia

    I’ve never commented on your blog, but I have to say that I just love reading your posts–about the wedding, being married, dogs, cats, and everything in between! It especially warmed my heart to see this post, though, because I actually just looked at that book yesterday and was trying to decide whether to buy it. My boyfriend and I have a rescued Shepherd mix who has shown aggression towards our other two terrier mixes (one outburst resulting in a trip to the emergency vet), and I feel like I’m quickly losing control over the situation–I could write so much more, but I’ll keep it short! I would love to read more about your thoughts on dog training, and maybe I’ll buy the book and work through it with you!

    • Hi Julia! Thanks so much for commenting! And for your wonderful compliments! I love the book; I think it has a lot of really good background, like “here’s WHY we do crate training, here’s WHY clicker training works.” Even though we didn’t use it much when we first bought it, I really did get a good confidence boost reading about how manageable it is. Good luck with your dogs – I hope no more emergency vet visits are in your future!

  7. Kristine

    You know me, obviously I’m in!

    I think it’s so fitting you are embarking on this project during National Train Your Dog month. It’s almost like you planned it that way. Good luck! I can’t wait to read more. Hopefully you’ll inspire me to get in gear on my next trick.

    Daphne is awesome, by the way. I love that attitude, as annoying as I’m sure it can be.

    • I know, I just saw that it’s National Train Your Dog Month! How convenient! I still remember first finding your blog, and you were asking for new tricks… and I thought, “Oh I’ll tell her some of our tricks!” And then I realized that you already do all of those plus. Shiva’s an inspiration 🙂

      (Preview to some future post: today I spent ten minutes ringing a fake doorbell and having Daph run to her bed. Not exciting but at the same time, exciting!)

  8. Svannah

    Ok this post is awesome. You should talk more about training Daphne. Or better yet, I think you should come to Colorado Springs and train my pups. They are so wild and don’t want to listen to anything I say. 😦

  9. I will be glued to my computer screen waiting for the next installment of Daphne training! Going from a 10lb chihuahua mix to a 45lb pitbull made of muscle definitely took some adjusting. Nothing in life is free, and Charlie sits for food, for doorways, for treats, for crossing streets, for EVERYTHING. She also has to follow us down the stairs because if we let her take the lead, she would be dragging us down the the stairwell in our 3 floor walk-up.

    Charlie is super smart, but she is a little sassy too. She understands that she doesn’t necessarily NEED to follow every command that we give her, and she will try and get away with it. Apparently she hasn’t put together the dots to realize that she NEVER gets away with ANYTHING, but one thing at a time.

    Good luck, I’m rooting for you!

    • Thanks for your interest! I can imagine that you’ve been through a lot of dog training challenges in the past year… I love the idea of Nothing in Life is Free. It was hard to start at first but now I’m indignant if she won’t sit, and it’s great that she can sit and wait at the top of the stairs while I walk down first. I looooove Charlie.

  10. lyn

    I love dogs, so I highly approve.

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