I’m a big fan of giving dogs mental stimulation, and one of my favorite ways to provide it is by teaching tricks. Sierra has learned a few (including the oh-so-cute “Take a bow!”), but lately I’ve been concentrating more on Bodhi. You remember, the couch-eating, pushy, out of control adolescent? I figure he needs it, and frankly, I was interested to see how well and how quickly he could learn tricks beyond the simple things like Shake and Spin. (He’s the canine equivalent of the rock star-cute guy with the “duh” sign over his head.) I’m happy to say he surprised me! Not only does he learn quickly and retain the knowledge, but he is now offering behaviors that were previously learned. This makes me especially happy, since it shows that he’s gaining some much-needed confidence.
I am also happily surprised to find that capturing behaviors works well with him. Often I’ll start out with the intention of teaching one trick, but then he does something I can’t pass up; so I’ll capture it, and a new trick is born. Sure, it takes some repetition, but the light bulb does go on. This afternoon I had started with the intention of working on, “Are you sleepy?” which is my version of the old “Bang!” trick where the dog falls down as if dead. (Somehow the “sleepy” cue bothers me less.) We’d worked on it before, and I’d backchained it to where Bodhi would fall on to his side from a lying position and remain there. Now I wanted to add lying down from a standing position, so the sequence would be complete. But somehow before I could begin, Bodhi had gone to lay down on his bed, and had rested his head on the floor between his front paws. It was so cute, I had to capture it. I did two repetitions and then turned on the video camera. Happily, he did it another few times. It’s not perfect, and you’ll be able to tell that he’s just learning it. (That’s why later, after I tried to start working on the originally intended trick and he repeats the head down instead, I reward him for it anyway; I didn’t want to lose that new behavior.) He does eventually do a pretty nice “sleepy” trick, though. Check out the video here. It’s progress!