The Orvis Dog Blog features informative posts on wide-ranging topics, including canine health, behavior and training, and the products your dog needs. Learn more about the Orvis-Morris Animal Foundation Canine Cancer Campaign, and our work supporting Petfinder Foundation’s dog rescue efforts.
Murph and his new pal at the country store Photo by Mimi Fersen
The snow is melting slowly but surely here in Vermont. The sun is out every once in a while, and Murph, Pickett, and I have been taking longer and longer walks. The concept of heel seems to be firmly ingrained in Murph now, and I am using it every chance I get to make sure it stays that way. I used to just make Murph sit calmly for his dinner, but now that he understands heel, I call both him and Pickett to heel before every meal. I make them sit and wait while I place both bowls, then I release them separately by name. One act, three lessons: heel, patience, and name recognition.
This May 7th marks the 3rd annual Morris Animal Foundation K9 Cancer Walk in Elk Grove, Calif. Many dogs succumb to cancer each year. Last March, Buddy, an 8-year-old chocolate lab mix, lost his human best friend to leukemia and his canine friend Raja to cancer too. On Saturday, May 7, help Buddy celebrate their memory, and raise money and awareness for canine cancer. All proceeds will benefit Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Cancer Campaign, a national effort to help dogs live longer, healthier, cancer-free lives.
Murph at the mall Photo by Mimi Fersen, taken with iPhone
This weekend we took my son to the airport for an early-morning flight. Of course, Murph went along. Since we were in the big city for the morning we decided to visit the mall. We got there an hour before the stores opened, but the mall was open and full of “mall walkers” doing their fitness thing. It occurred to me what a great time it was to work on Murph’s training and steadiness in a new environment. I went back to the car and got him.
Gibson just can’t sit still in a car. He’s well behaved enough, but the entire ride to anywhere he will stand, pace, stare out the window, bark at motorcycles and paw the dashboard. He has this bit where he puts both front paws on the dash and uses the passenger seat for his back feet, suspending himself in mid-air above the truck’s bench, using it as leverage to make his teenage body as long as possible. Sometimes he moves over to me and sits aside me, my arm around him, and I feel like a character in a Norman Rockwell oils. But usually he just scatters about. He summons enough static electricity to shock me when his nose touches my cheek. His body is literally a live wire, excited to be let out for the next adventure.
Now we’re getting down to business. This is at once the most boring time, but the most critical time for solidifying Murph’s foundation that will be the basis for everything he accomplishes in his life.
Because it is so much fun to see your young dog do and achieve new things, the tendency is to push them by adding new commands on top of the ones you’ve recently taught. The danger to this is not locking in the foundation; or “building your house on sand,” to turn a biblical phrase. Unless the foundation is rock solid, the resulting structure will be flawed. Okay enough with the metaphors.
“Are you sure they didn’t send you a Holstein by accident?” joked a fellow workshop attendee who was pointing at Gibson—my then 4-month-old Border Collie pup. Gibson wasn’t interested in much besides landscaping. Just twenty yards behind him very serious dogs were circling sheep in a small pen. Gibson didn’t even turn around to smell the lanolin. He was all about the grass, his head buried in it. Standing there against the green grass, abnormally large for the breed and all black and white… Gibson did look kind of like a cow. This was at a Herding 101 workshop in June of 2010.
Take a guess at our trivia question and, right or wrong, you could win a FREE ToughChew® Dog’s Nest® from Orvis!
This breed (which is NOT pictured below) looks similar to a foxhound but is shorter with softer and longer ears. It has a superb sense of smell for tracking. The modern breed was bred in Great Britain circa 1830 from the Talbot Hound, the Southern Hound, and other breeds, possibly even the Harrier.
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No, I’m not training Murph for black ops missions, nor am I training him in secret. Actually stealth training refers to training Murph when he doesn’t know he is being trained. This is not a revolutionary concept by any means and good trainers do it all the time, but it’s worth talking about. A lot of amateur trainers (such as myself) tend to focus on the training session and forget about the rest of the day. First of all this sends an inconsistent message to the puppy and secondly, it is a lost opportunity.
Murphy has entered his first rebellious stage, which I knew would come eventually. It can be frustrating if you let it; so don’t let it, because it’s also pretty humorous. The key is to eliminate the opportunity for this response and take a step back for a few days.
Murph’s learning curve is so steep now I’m not sure where to begin. We continue to build on sit and stay, and now responding to his name and heel have been added to the mix. I am working Murph twice a day now for about 10 truly focused minutes each, once by himself here at work and then when I get home with Pickett added to the mix. But what’s important is that in every interaction with Murph, work or play, I try to make sure I am reinforcing a good habit and not accidentally instilling a bad one. I try to think through everything we’re doing.