I’ve had a good day off. Catching up on some house cleaning and piles and piles of laundry. Spending a day puttering around home makes me the happiest. In between the folding and dusting I play with the puppies, sure it’s not terribly productive but it’s fun.
Jax helped me fold some laundry by hiding it under the couch. Taz enjoyed a verbal sparing match with the vacuum cleaner and Poco would follow me with a bright blue ball in his mouth begging to play fetch.
These little moments that I believe are mere play become bonding and trust building exercises on accident. I don’t think of it as Jax Therapy, but rather as play and treat time. Jax learned to sit today. He plunked himself down on his narrow little bum, tilted his head and pined for his treat. I’m so proud
I play with them because its fun and I spend time with them because I love the joy and wonder they bring to my life. I’ve been asked by other dog people about the bond I have with my dogs and what kind of training I’ve done, but I’ve never done much training. I’ve taken bits of knowledge from different sources, but never really sat down for hard core “training” with any of them. I teach them great games like fetch, dancing and the big bear. I walk them off leach in safe areas and they learn to come when I yell “come on guys”. They might not know stay, but they know wait.
These thoughts become things I’ve taught them on accident and most of the time it’s for safety. I was surprised Taz knew the command stay when we did the Canine Good Citizenship Test because it was never something we practiced, but she picked up what I wanted by our everyday interaction. Taz got that I meant wait, not stay. She knew I wanted her to wait there and she knew there was a good reason or I’d never ask.
Calling her to me was very natural. I needed her and she came to me. No questions asked. I’ve been asked about training methods because my dogs are well behaved (usually) and I can honestly answer that I don’t have obedient dogs, I have willing and loving companions.
Without any formal training Gizmo and Taz both passed their Canine Good Citizenship Award and became registered Therapy Dogs both as individuals and as a team. I was asked if Taz and Gizmo “fed off each other” and I said: “yes”. They gain a lot of comfort and confidence from each other, but the instructor was concerned they’d feed off each other in a negative way. Taz and Gizmo passed with flying colours. It’s a tough test, but my guys don’t mind being left alone because they know I’ll always come for them. They like to follow me and when asked to perform this task they do it because they have to for safety, so they just did for the test. I am so proud.
I don’t use training collars, but I will use treats to teach the basics like sit. I use the treats as an attention getter rather than as a reward. I’d like the dogs to do what I ask because they want to and know there’s a reason behind it that is important. When they realize I’m asking them to do the same thing over and over again they feel ridiculous and won’t do it. I don’t blame them. I hate being taught the same thing over and over again.
I rarely work with my dogs on a particular task because every game we play is fun and for learning manners and good behaviour. They learn words by accident this way. I will ask Poco “if someone is here?” he will bark once and check the door. If I tell him to “go see who’s here” he races to the door in an excited frenzy. They’re really quick and pick up on the different inflections in my voice rather than the words.
Poco was up on the bed and he was shaking and cowering at some unknown evil. Poco has spend too much time shaking since he came to the farm. At first we couldn’t console him, but now we can. When Poco is upset he will come to me now and sit close. Touching. I will put one hand on his back and feel his tremors. I will take slow deep breaths and push calming sea blue energy into Poco through my hand. I know it sounds hokie, but it works.
When I first started this method two years ago I learned that I had to wait for Poco to come to me. If I tried to calm him and he wasn’t interested in my help it never worked. I had to be patient and wait for Poco to come to me for comfort. It took years, but I recognized that sending him strength and comfort would help. It used to take up to fifteen minutes to calm him, but now it’s less than a minute. He comes to me sooner for comfort and gains peace much faster. All you have to know how to do is breathe.
We’ve had our new baby puppy, jube jube nose, Jackson, Jax for nearly three weeks and he’s learned so much. He’s learned to sit and he’s learned to be polite at dinner time. He’s learned to play fetch and to respect Taz while she chews on her rawhide. He’s learning to trust people.
Tonight at 2351 Jax asked to come up on the bed for the first time. Once up here he sat and stared at me for several minutes before giving me my first lick on the hand. It was his first kiss was much like Jax – sweet and gentle. The moment filled me with joy. Three weeks and he was starting to love and trust me a little bit. He wants to cuddle and pushes his body against mine for comfort.
This is a good night. Raising puppies can be a challenge, but remember to keep you head up, your voice calm and your energy positive. Dogs read body language better than they speak english.