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Dogs Training Dogs

My own advancement through the training of dogs was as it is for most people, learning from others having more experience. As I progressed, I found it becoming easier to train each of my new dogs. Was I becoming better and more experienced?

Yes, this was one answer but also my current working dog was associating with my wife’s experienced dogs as well as my own older dog. At one point, we had seven German Shepherds in our home. Added to this our dogs were also working and training with other working trails competitors and you could often see an air of competition between them. This was for me particularly noticeable in the Patrol work training, which the dogs loved. Watching another dog work only excited them so much that when it was there turn they improved dramatically.

My last working trail dog called Tip learnt his tracking from his dad Lumpy. As a puppy, he would watch Lumpy tracking and would run along beside him. To my surprise, I realised later, Tip tracked like a natural. He was so jealous of watching me work Lumpy he was determined to have a go himself.

Searching for articles, when I worked Lumpy I let Tip work along side him. Once he realised what his dad was looking for and saw how much praise he received for returning articles to my hand he began to compete with Lumpy as to who could find them first.

Lumpy was getting older now but Tip was making him work faster and even better than he had ever been in competition.

Many farmers working collies let the younger ones work with the older dogs. One I saw, the older dog would not let the younger one go past him nor even attempt to walk ahead of the farmer.

The other day I was looking after two real Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I mention this as Winston is only half Rhodesian Ridgeback and the other half is Boxer. The owners told me their dogs would try to tear up my cushions and go anywhere they pleased. I had all the instructions for looking after them but they were fine. There was one attempt by the dog to get onto the settee. Before I could say anything Winston growled at him and pushed him out of the way. The dog never attempted to sit on the settee again.

Once all the dogs had eaten their evening meals, I could sit down to watch television and there were no problems. Being a light sleeper when I went to bed, I thought I would be able to hear any problems that may arise. I did hear some tearing during the night and I shouted, “STOP THAT.” When I came out of the bedroom, I found the bitch tearing up her own bedding. She stopped and settled down again.

I returned to bed but at about seven in the morning, I heard a dog come into my bedroom. Again, before I could say anything Winston flew in past the dog and growled at him to get out. The dog did as ordered and left my bedroom escorted by Winston.

I was indeed impressed as I had never taught Winston to do that and he naturally never came into my room except in a morning to lick my hands to try to wake me up. He does this occasionally but my ignoring him and pretending to be asleep he eventually gives up.

Whilst having these two dogs with me they did have a tendency to drag all their bedding out into the garden, which for them seemed great fun. I on the other hand had to go out and collect it all up again.

One other game they liked was to dig holes. One hole was for trying to dig a tree out of the ground and another was by the gate into the agility field. It was not that the gate was shut they just dug a hole and it was a big hole at that.

I would fill it in but they would only dig it out again. They were only stopping for three days so catching them actually doing this was a rarity.

Once they had gone home, I went round and filled in the holes thinking nothing more about it until I found one of the holes evacuated again. This could only mean Winston had done this. He had never dug holes before so he must have learnt from the two dogs that digging holes is great fun and he was going to try it.

I filled it in once again, waited a while, and ignored Winston. It was about fifteen minutes later I saw him head for the hole and he started to dig. I shouted at him to stop and then I filled the hole in as he watched. To date no more hole digging from Winston.

One of the problems I do find is when people do have a dog doing something it should not they assume that getting a playmate would help. What often happens is after a while they end up with two dog having the same problem like barking and digging holes

I always advise owners who have to solve a doggy problem that they learn first to control the dog they have. Once the owners understand and succeed how to stop their doggy problem then it is possible for them to purchase another dog. The hope is it is not going to learn bad habits from their existing dog. This is no guarantee as the new dog may well have problems or traits all of its own and then teach them to the older dog.

At a zoo near Malton Yorkshire, I visited the aviary and the staff told me that they originally started with just one Mynah bird with a particular funny sentence. It would cough like a heavy smoker then say, “That’s what Woodbines give you.” Do you remember Woodbines in the green paper packets? By the time I was at the zoo, they now had six Mynahs and all had learnt the same phrase even to the point one would cough, so another would then speak the phrase.

Animals learn their skills watching and learning the existing skills of their elders. For instance, monkeys have learnt to wash their food or use tools to catch grubs hidden in holes in trees. If animals could only text to others of their kind around the world, then all monkeys would probably do this. At present, they do not have anything like the communications and linguistic skills humans have developed. For us human’s new knowledge that was initially only understood in universities is eventually taught in junior schools.

Animals cannot compete on the same human level but this ability of animal’s to teach each other is something that we can utilise in the training of our dogs.

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