Monday, June 8, 2009

Barking Buddha Doga Tip O' The Week

Photo by Julie Melfi

Dogs, dogs, dogs...The great companions, the healers, the playmates, the protectors, the family members, the partners. Inviting another species into our lives as a family member and somehow it just all works out.

We come to an understanding and even though we don't speak the same language we develop a language of our own, a way to communicate with a combination platter of words, sounds and gestures.

My dog Gus became cautious of the narrow wooden staircase leading up to the master bedroom after we removed the carpet. When he first began padding up and down the uncarpeted stairs, his little paws made a cute noise on the bare wood and I would imitate it as he would go up and down. The noise I made was something like a high pitched "boop, boop. boop".

Hey, I felt that eye roll! But I have a feeling that when alone with your own dog you have your own set of noises, baby talk and terms of endearment that would put my "Gus-padding-up-the-stairs" imitation seem pretty normal and not so bad.

Anyway...back to the story. So after making this noise a few times, not meaning any harm just having fun...something interesting happened. By making the "boop, boop, boop" noise while he was going up the stairs, I had accidentally trained him to take the stairs when I say "boop, boop, boop". I can be anywhere in the house and I'll hear him give a little bark at the bottom of the stairs and I can yell from the other room "BOOP, BOOP, BOOP!" and I'll hear him go up the stairs. It was one of those "oopsy" training moments.

I've been working on getting him to take the stairs without me making the noise and we're almost there, he only needs the cue occasionally now. I think the combination of the stairs feeling less stable under his feet than the carpet made him more susceptible to taking a cue from me and I've had to build up his stair confidence.

The "Gus and Stairs Incident" is just one of many examples of how cool and wonderous the possibility of communication is with our dogs. Whether it's accidental, or we consciously train our dogs to understand certain words or symbols, the communication we share with our dogs is unique to our relationship with them. The more observant and mindful we become, the better communicators we will be and our relationship to our dogs will benefit as well as our relationship to those other beings we share space with...the human being.

Barking Buddha Doga Tip of The Week: Dog T.V.

Sit quietly and observe your dog then write down your observations. Did you notice anything new or different? Did you learn anything, a fresh insight or idea? Bring your observations into your next training session or playtime to help you get the most out of time spent with your dog.

Let me know how it goes.


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