Dogs and Car Washes

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Rotating brushes inside a conveyor car-wash.

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I picked up Bentley from day camp then decided to get the car washed on the way home.  This was Bentley’s first time through a car wash.  Despite his namesake, he did not like it at all.  The poor thing was whimpering and panting out of anxiety.

This is a tough situation to be in.  Our first inclination is to hug or pet the dog and tell him it’s ok.  Try to soothe him, try to calm him.  But all this does is reinforce in the dog that being scared of this strange thing is ok!  We do NOT want to reinforce scared behavior.  So, difficult as it was, I didn’t cuddle my poor puppy.  Instead, I tried talking to him in an upbeat voice to reinforce the fact that *I* wasn’t scared and thus there was nothing to be scared about.  He made it through the brief ordeal unscathed, and has not somehow developed a fear of the car.




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In this video I do a quick little review of some tricks I’ve taught Bentley so far, as well as teaching him the “Catch” command.  This is one of those tricks that requires a lot of repetition, so once again I’m doing it at dinner time and using his kibble as the reward.  When he does actually manage to catch a piece of kibble out of the air, he also gets a higher value treat as a reward. I’m aiming right for his nose to make this really easy for him.  Once he gets better at it, I can make it more challenging by making him jump for the treat, but for now, we’re just working on learning what this new command means.  He figures out quickly what he’s supposed to do, we just need to work on mouth-eye coordination!

Ring the Bell

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Continuing the progression of the “Touch” command, I’ve started working with Bentley on ringing a bell to go outside.  It takes him a little while to get the idea that he needs to touch the bell and not my hand though, as I forgot to bring the sticky note target with me.  But once, again, he catches on quickly.  It’s important to have patience when teaching a dog a new trick or command.  They have *NO* idea what you’re saying or what you want, and most of them don’t understand the concept of pointing.  All they know is that you have a treat and you want them to do something to get that treat.  Don’t get frustrated! And be sure to not let the dog get frustrated either!  Work on it for a bit, then take a break and try again later.




High Five

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After working with Bentley on the “Touch” command and being successful with it, I changed the command to “high five”.  He catches on pretty quick!  This was an easy trick for Bentley to learn because he already knew “Give Paw” and was already accustomed to touching with his paw rather than his nose.  Now we just need to work on his accuracy a bit!

Touch – Part I



I’m working on teaching Bentley the “Touch” command.  I like to think of this as a gateway command.  Once you can get your dog to reliably touch on command, you can change what he is touching and gradually change the command to get him to do things like ring a bell or turn on the lights.  In the video I use a sticky note as a target so that Bentley learns that he needs to touch the little piece of paper and not just my hand.

Give Paw


Bentley’s nails are looking a bit long. I figured I would teach him how to give paw in preparation for his paws being handled at the groomer. I started by trying to get him to sit.  Now, he knows how to sit. He does it all the time before we go on walks so I can put the leash on. But whenever there’s a treat involved he seems to think that he must lay down for the treat. So the hardest part of this was getting him to sit and stay sitting rather than laying down!  Then I would tap on the back of his leg to get him to lift his paw up.



As you can see, he wasn’t quite getting it. BUT! A couple days later, I tried again, and this time, he gave his paw like a pro!


Go Crate!

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Bentley came to me mostly crate trained.  By that, I mean I could put him in his crate at night, he would whine slightly for maybe half a minute, then settle down and sleep through the night.  But he doesn’t seem to really actually enjoy being in his crate.  He won’t go in there on his own if he needs a break, for example.  So I wanted to work with him to make the crate a happier place.  So I decided to teach him the “Go Crate!” command.  At first, I would sit in front of the crate, give the cue, and toss some treats in.  He would go in, gobble up the treats, then hop right out.  Then I worked on getting him to go into the crate before offering the treat.  Next, he had to go into the crate on cue, and lay down before getting the treat.  All this with me right next to the crate.  He picked this part up very quickly, as he’ll do anything for a treat.  Next, I worked on giving the cue from further away. It’s interesting to see how dogs think.  Bentley has a dog bed right across from the kitchen, and if I tell him to “Go Crate!” from the kitchen, sometimes he’ll go straight to his bed and lay down there instead!

My next challenge was getting him to actually stay in his crate.  Sure, he’d hop right in and lay down, and he’d eat his treat, and sometimes he’d even stay in for a minute hoping for another treat, but generally he wouldn’t stay in the crate too long.  So I decided to buy a rawhide bone for him.  These would take him longer to chew, so he wouldn’t be able to just eat an run.  On the other hand, I fully expected him to take his new treat out of his crate to go eat it elsewhere.  The plan was to let him have his bone in peace if he was in his crate, but the minute he took it out, I would take it from him (no easy task as he hasn’t learned to “Give” or “Drop It” yet) and tell him to “Go Crate” where he would get the bone back.  I figured it would take about 3-5 repetitions before he caught on that if he wanted to chew his bone unmolested, he would have to stay in his crate.

Well, I gave Bentley the cue to “Go Crate” and he went in and laid down.  I gave him his bone and waited for him to come out with it.  I waited.  Waited some more.  Waited even longer.  He did eventually come out of the crate with the bone, although it took him much longer than I thought it would (a very GOOD thing!).  I immediately went to take the bone from him and he fled…

…right back into his crate!

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