Sunday, March 23, 2014

Silence is yellow

Mums the word, says Euka.
Speak!, I say to Micron.

Boof! says Micron. Bawoof!

Good dog, Mikey, I say. Well done, big guy. I turn to Jager, Speak!

Yap, says Jager. Yap yap yap yap yap yap ...

Alrighty, that'll do, I say. Now Quiet. Please.

Yap, says Jager.

Euka, I say. Speak!

Euka gathers her color coded index cards, clears her throat and makes eye contact with her audience.

Good morning, says Euka. I want to thank you all for being here ...

Yeah, just pulling your leggings there, sister. Truth be told, Euka's response to the Speak command is the same as the Quiet command. She just looks at me with those root beer brown eyes and waits for me to start using English again.

And here we are. Got us an eighteen month old polar bear pup who has thwarted all attempts to teach her the Speak command. Euka hasn't been a very vocal dog, bark-wise. Oh sure, she hasn't lost that adorable squeak when she yawns. Been doing that squee-worthy performance since we met her at eight weeks old.

And sometimes when a play session with Jager escalates into a fracas of sorts, we might overhear an excited bark or two. But that's it. None of the other vocal misbehaviors we found so challenging in various other pups. Euka's offered up nothing like crate barking, vigilant alerts to weird noises or whatnot.

How do you teach the Speak command, ask a colleague in the office.

This after another masterful Speak demo by the mighty Micron. More on this phenomena at our earlier post, Hokey Pokey, or heck, even right here. Micron will again show you his expert level of Speak.

video

But how to teach a dog to do this?

Oh, there are different methods one could try depending on the dog. For a serial barker, say like Jager, you would mark the behavior with the word Speak. Make the vocalization a positive thing. And partner it up with the Quiet command. And by keeping consistent with these two markers, all happy stuff and correction-free, eventually you both will have a handle on controlled vocalization.

But what about a quiet little girl like Miss Euka? Well, my go-to has always been the simple task of frustrating the snot out of the pup until he or she makes a noise. I show a high value treat and wave it all around the pup's snooter with an oh, you almost got it, keep trying. Speak, puppy, speak.  And so on until a moan, squeak or yip escapes from the puppy who is slowly losing their mind.

And then, they get not just a treat as a reward, but an overflowing handful. Is it my birthday?, they wonder. National Puppy Day or something?

And we do it again. And again. Make a sound, then treats. I'm excited, the puppy is wound up and eventually *click*, they get it.
Puppy Brain Sequence
1. Food Lady says Speak
2. I make a sound
3. I get an awesome treat
4. Food Lady is happy
5. I want more awesome treats
If this doesn't work, we move onto the one thing that seems overtly obvious, yet somehow never really works. But with no success at hand to date, here we go anyway.

I line up the dogs in order of age. Jager, Micron, then Euka.  Not on purpose, you know. That implies I have some degree of control when I reach for the treat jar on the counter. I don't.

And we begin.

Micron ...Speak! [boof!] Good dog! [crunching cookie sound]  Jager...Speak! [yap yap yap]Good dog! [crunching cookie sound] Lookit Euka! This is Speak. The boys are getting cookies and you're not. Doesn't that annoy you? Yeah? Well, Euka Speak!

[crickets]

Ha ha, just kidding. Even the crickets are barking at this point. The boys haven't stopped flapping their gums since we started. And they're still getting cookie goodness for Speak! while Euka is on standby suffering in the No Goodie zone.

She just won't even try. Not even a whimper.

Dang it.

Ok, so here's another way to look at this. I will share with y'all a recent happening at our place.

I come home from an afternoon running errands to find a loaf of bread on the dining room carpet. When I say loaf of bread what I really mean is the shreds of a plastic wrapper and a twist tie. When I left the house, the unopened loaf was on the kitchen counter, all safe and sound and wheaty.

I gather the dogs for a family meeting.

I'm a trained professional, says Euka. Ok, well
kinda sorta. I'm still not speaking about it and
you can't make me.
Who did this? I ask, holding the empty bread wrapper.

I dunno, yawns Micron . I was upstairs guarding your bedroom.

Wasn't me, says Bodine the Cat and Benevolent Overlord of Sword House. I was busy taking a single bite out of each apple in the fruit bowl. 

[burp], says Jager.

Huh. Right, I already deduced this. It's not the first time the spotted dog has used his wiles to manage some ill gotten goods.

What's important to note here is that throughout this exchange, not a word from Euka. She remains very, very quiet on the subject. But looking into her eyes, I know she knows. And she knows I know she knows.

And there you have it.  See?

The girl knows how to keep a secret.  The merits of keeping her lips sealed.

I think that makes her one classy dame.

_________________________________________

Speaking (heh, speaking) of obedience training, did you know Canine Companions for Independence offers helpful videos on YouTube?

Check it out. Three minute of good advice about basic obedience.

Basic Obedience: Canine Companions Extraordinary Puppy 


Click here for more videos from www.cci.org

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