Greyt Inspirations Life

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Dog Training!

Can Blue learn to trot?

Can Blue learn to trot?

My dog Blue doesn’t like to trot.  I’ve written about this before.  He uses the pacing gait instead of trotting.  I’ve been at my wit’s end because he has to trot at dog shows.  I finally decided that I would see what an expert could do about the problem.  Yesterday we had an appointment with a dog trainer.  What an interesting experience!

Now Blue has never had any formal training.  My training experiences have been in group obedience classes.  I’ve read a lot about training and applied what I needed to apply to my own dogs but I’ve never used clicker training.  So, I was very interested to see what was going to happen.

We arrived at the trainer’s place.  She boards dogs, too, but she has a separate building for training.  However, it’s not air conditioned and it was very hot.  It’s built a little like a huge garage and she had one side opened so there was air moving around.  It was still hot, especially for a longhaired dog like Blue.

The trainer had another trainer there with her.  They asked me to show them what Blue does so I put his show lead on and moved him around — he paced for them.  Their first thought was that maybe I wasn’t tall enough to move fast enough for Blue (I’m 5’7”) so they had the male trainer move Blue — he still paced.  Next they decided to see how Blue would move on his own so they told me to let go of his lead and let him move freely.  They started tossing toys for him, which he was very happy to chase for them.  He moved from one side of the building to the other, always pacing.

Then they decided to see how he would respond to treats.  HAHAHA  My boy likes treats.  They got some Vienna sausages.  One trainer stood at one end of the building and the other trainer stood at the other end.  They would call him to them and give him treats when he came.  But he always paced.  So then they decided to see if they could start using the clicker to get some trotting behavior.  The male trainer picked up his lead and started moving with him.  Whenever he trotted, even for a second or two, I was supposed to say, “Yes!” and the other trainer would click the clicker so Blue could get a treat.  Well, he did trot 2-3 times, just for a few seconds, but it wasn’t enough for him to figure out why he was getting clicks and treats.

Altogether this went on for about 20 minutes — tossing the toys, letting him run around, then clicking and treating.  By this time Blue had enough.  He was panting and he just stopped.  He said no more.  He ran over behind me and plopped down and wouldn’t get up again.  I don’t blame him, really.  I’m sure he didn’t see the point in what they were trying to do, even if there were treats involved.  That’s why English Setters don’t make the greatest obedience dogs.  They tend to think for themselves.  The last time I took a dog to obedience classes he was bored out of his mind when we were doing the heeling exercises where we practiced walking in circles and stopping.

However, I did sign us up for classes with these trainers.  I think they will help us.  We don’t have to repeat the same things over and over.  I think we’ll have to be more creative to figure out a way to get him to trot.  For one thing, they want me to bring one of my other dogs — one that trots! — to our first class, along with Blue.  Now I don’t know how that’s going to help Blue learn to trot but I think it should be interesting.  I think I’ll take Pearl.  She always has a fit when we leave her behind.  This way she can be part of things.

The trainer said that Blue was very smart.  While we were there a woman was teaching a puppy to ring a bell when she wanted to go outside.  Blue was watching everything they did.  The puppy would ring the bell with her nose, then the owner would click the clicker and give the puppy a treat.  Blue watched that for 10-15 minutes.  When we were leaving we had to go out through the door that had the bell hanging on it.  He used his nose to ring the bell!  It was so cute.  I wish I’d had a treat to give him. It’s amazing how smart dogs are.  We forget that they learn by watching others.

So, we’ll see how we do in our classes.  Can they teach him how to trot?  We’ll see.  Our first class is Thursday night.

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July 15, 2009 Posted by | dogs, Pets | , , , , | Leave a comment

Glowing dogs and positive reinforcement

090428-dog-glow-hlarg-7prp600x350There is a perfectly wild story in the news today about dogs that glow.  I’m not kidding you.  I wouldn’t make this up.  Those crazy South Korean geneticists have been at work again — you never know what they will do next.  This time they have cloned a litter of Beagles which glow red under ultraviolet light.

 

South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named “Ruppy” — a combination of the words “ruby” and “puppy” — look like typical beagles by daylight.

But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs’ nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world’s first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

“What’s significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them,” Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

 

This is the first time that dogs with modified genes have been successfully cloned.

 

Now, the purpose of doing this is to show that it is possible to successfully insert genes with one specific trait into cells.  This could lead to implanting other (non-fluorescent) genes that could help treat specific genes.  According to the scientists the team has begun implanting human disease-related genes in the course of the dog cloning.  This will supposedly help them find new treatments for genetic diseases such as Parkinson’s.  They refused to elaborate on their research.

 

Of course, this is getting into a controversial area.  Some people don’t like the idea of using animals, especially dogs, for this kind of research.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with cloning to reproduce a specific dog or try to improve the chance of reproducing a dog with very desirable skills, such as a drug-sniffing dog.  But I do start to have problems with cloning in order to give dogs specific diseases for research purposes.  I’m not sure how moral it is to clone dogs in order to give them a disease.  My personal opinion is that we can’t afford to forego all animal testing.  Without it we would be living in the dark ages as far as medicine and health care are concerned.  Something to think about.

 

box-largeIn other news, there’s a great article about the woman who trained Bo Obama, Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, in USA Today.  The really interesting part of the article is that Sylvia-Stasiewicz discusses a bit about her training methods and she’s completely committed to positive reinforcement.  If you don’t know this term it means that she trains by using treats and praise and rewarding a dog when he does something desirable.  Positive reinforcement largely ignores a dog’s “bad” behavior so there’s no punishment or corrections, no pain or yelling.  It is, as the name suggests, a very positive approach to training dogs.

 

Positive reinforcement is already a popular training method.  It’s great to see it getting some attention.  Maybe this will encourage even more people to consider training classes or to find out about positive reinforcement.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | dogs, General, Pets | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment