Friday, November 13, 2009

Watson the Wonder Dog

I’m getting another stinking migraine, so please bear with me today, folks. School’s been stressing me right out, so I’ve been getting these skull bangers over the last couple of weeks. And I thought that the month before graduation was supposed to be a little easier than this. Hah!

Let’s talk about dog training today, mmkay? Mom just adopted a Rottweiler from a local drunk who was starving the poor puppy – seems that the dog growled at the drunk’s illegitimate offspring when it got too close to the food dish. Anyway…Mom’s happy because she got to save a dog from a piece of garbage, and the dog’s happy because he actually sees a food dish every day.

Anyway…the dog’s only about six months old, but that’s more than old enough for basic training. Mom’s been working with the little guy (who isn’t, by the way, so little) for a few hours every day (interspersed throughout the day, that is). He’s quickly learning his name (“Watson”), as well as commands like “come” and “sit.” Watson genuinely wants to please Mom, which is a big help because he wants to hear “Good boy! Oh, good boy, Watson. You sit so well.”

If you keep in mind that your dog probably wants to make you happy, then basic obedience training is not usually too difficult. Your main challenge lies in communicating your desires to the dog so that he can associate your commands – verbal, visual, whatever – with the appropriate response.

Here’s how Mom trains her canine pals. More often than not, the training works well and takes only a few weeks to really kick in. Remember, though, that I’m talking only of basic, obedience training: none of us are experts at raising proper guard dogs or other, such things.

Teaching the dog his name
Just keep saying the dog’s name over and over when you speak to him. Use the name as punctuation, in fact, so that the dog hears it plenty of times. Soon enough, he’ll figure out that he’s “Watson,” or “Fido,” or whatever, and will start looking your way when you say it in the future.


“Hey, Watson. You’re a good boy, Watson – such a good Watson. Do you like your new food dish, Watson? Oh, yes, Watson likes the dish. Good boy, Watson.”

Yes, that’s annoying as crap, even to type out. But it works. Watson already turns around to look at us about twenty-five percent of the time when we say “Watson,” and he’s been here for only a few days…and we didn’t name him, officially, until last night.

Coming when called
If the dog receives some kind of reward every time he comes to you, he’s going to come when you call him. Watson gets petted sometimes and told that he’s a very good boy. Other times, he gets a piece of a doggy biscuit. When he finally decides to pick out a toy of his very own (so far, he isn’t into any of the ones that we’ve offered him), we’ll also use that: if you call the dog’s name while waving the toy around or making it squeak or whatever, the dog will usually respond.

Even after the dog’s very good at coming every time he’s called, you should still reward him. No, you don’t have to give him a doggy biscuit every time he comes from now until his death, but petting or “Good boy – such a good Watson” aren’t bad ideas…maintaining the training and all that.

Mom doesn’t push down on the dog’s back end to show him what she wants: instead, she makes him do the sitting, then rewards him.

She starts by taking a piece of a doggy treat in one hand and making the visual sign for “sit.” While she does this, she gives the command: “Watson, sit.” As she speaks, she slowly moves the hand with the treat up and over the dog’s head: Watson sits down, naturally, because he’s trying to keep the treat in sight.

As soon as his butt touches the floor, he gets the treat and a litany of, “Good Watson – you sit so well. Watson knows how to sit, doesn’t he? Good sit, Watson.”

Again: annoying, but effective.

Those are just the things that Watson’s already learning. Unfortunately, the drunk didn’t do much with the poor dog, so Watson doesn’t know a lot. He’s not even housebroken, I’m sorry to say, but we’re working on that as well as the commands.

It’s important to train your dog because you are then in control of the situation. If he knows that you’re in charge, and if he knows what to do when you give commands, then both of you are happier. He gets to please you, and you don’t have to worry about a disobedient, reckless dog tearing through the house or neighborhood.

Ultimately, Mom’s thinking that Watson will make a good travel buddy when she leaves the house. Before she can find out for sure if Watson’s suited for that kind of thing, though, she has to get through the basic training. Even if Watson ends up being another lump on the living-room floor (like most of our other dogs), at least he’ll be a well-trained lump.

1 comment:

  1. Watson sounds like quite the clever pup! A quick learner indeed. I have two pups and we're in the process of training one of them out of barking. There's certainly a learning curve, but there has been improvement.


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm