Monday, September 21, 2009

September Facebook Essay Contest Winner: What Tricks Does Your Dog Do?

This month's Facebook essay contest winner is Marla Berg-Vivit, whose winning submission on the topic "What Tricks Does Your Dog Do?" got us all smiling. She details the antics of her black Lab/Pointer mix pet dog, Hayley. Marla has been a fan of GDB ever since she her husband's cousin received a Guide Dog from our school many years ago. She hopes to one day raise a Guide Dog puppy. She has a house full of pets, including another dog, Scotty, a wire-haired Terrior/Chihauhau mix; two cats, Midnight and Miss Demeanor; as well as chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters over the years.

The Amazing Hayley
By Marla Berg-Vivit

You gotta love my dog! Hayley, a black lab and pointer mix, is such a cutie. I got her when she was 2 years old, but she had never been trained other than to stay off the furniture and to sit and lay. She is so smart, she even taught herself a trick... but then I am getting too far ahead of myself.

When we got her she was able to "Sit" when you held up one finger, and "Lay" when you held up two. Since then we have taught her many more "tricks" - mostly commands for good behavior (training in disguise!). The first new trick we taught her was to tell us when she had to go outside. She got this one quickly, and now she stands by the door and stares at you when she needs or wants to go outside. She loves to sit on the porch in the morning sun, and guard the yard from other dogs. She liked going outside so much, that her trick actually got to be such a pain!  So then I tried to teach her to open the door herself. The door only has a dead bolt which is always open during the day. I tried to hang a cord from the door and teach her to pull it open, but she wouldn't put anything in her mouth or use her mouth to maneuver things. So that wasn't working. But it didn't take much to show her how to push the door open by herself. So what I was able to do was teach her to close the door!  She liked that so much, whenever she wanted a treat, she would go and close the door, even tho the door was already closed! Too much! (Now only if she would close the door without being told when she comes in, especially in the winter time!)

I also taught her was to use her manners at the dinner table. She already knew the "Lay" command, so I just got her to know that "Manners" was the same as "Lay." But it has only been recently that I have been able to get her to use the combination of "Stay" and "Manners" when giving her her reward. She would always jump up to get it.

Another trick I taught her was to speak, or in our case, "Talk to me." Some of our commands are actually three words strung together to sound like three syllables.  She took longer to learn this one because she is a barker - and a loud one. She learned to "Talk to me" by giving me a small, tiny "ruff" sound. We have many conversations that go like this:

"Hayley, tell me about your day"
"Ruff"
"You don't say?"
"Ruff"
"Talk to me about it some more"
"Ruff"
"My goodness, you don't say!"
"Ruff"

We love our conversations!

Well one day, as I mentioned earlier, Hayley taught herself a trick! I was working on the computer all morning, and she finally had to go outside. She must have been standing at the door for the longest time, but I was in the kitchen two rooms away.  She came into the kitchen and layed down, staring at me. I didn't notice. She finally "ruff"ed at me and I turned my head to look at her. I was sooo amazed! She got what she wanted though - my attention!  This has become something she does all the time now, and not just to go outside.

One of the other commands that Hayley has mastered are "Go to bed" (usually given when she needs to go on 'time out' for bad behavior, most often barking at the top of her lungs inside the house!);

There is one trick that, so far, Hayley has refused to do, so we use it as a joke. We had been trying to get her to "Roll over," but she never goes on her back, and her body is hard to wriggle over. So to avoid practicing this command with us, she used to just run away. Now, whenever we say "Roll over" she takes that to mean "Run way"...it's so funny!

Finally, Hayley loves her car rides. I take her in the car whenever I can. She loves to stand in the front passenger seat and have her head outside the window while the car is going, the air blasting past her, brushing her jowls and ears back. She will put her paw on the button that puts the window down when she wants the window to be put down so she can put her head out. The button is too recessed for her to actually lower the window herself, but it has become her way of telling me she wants the window down - now!

There one trick I still haven't been able to break her of though: greeting everyone that comes into the house with a kiss!

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