Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Do You Want?

Sometimes Hannah gets tired of my doing things without being involved with her. She comes and sits beside me, gazing at me hopefully.

I was at the computer when she came and sat. I turned to her and gave her a hug, and then asked, "What do you want?"

She gazed.

I said, "Do you want to play tug?" No response.

"Do you want a brush?" No response.

"Do you want a toe clip?" No response.

"Do you want your teeth brushed?" No response.

"Do you want a biscuit?" No response.

"Do you want a kong?" No response.

"Do you want to play Find-It?"

Yes, yes, yes! That's what I want! Yes, please, let's play Find-It. I love that game!

And so we went to the kitchen and I took 4 biscuits out of the biscuit container. I told Hannah to sit and stay, and I came back into the room and hid the biscuits. It's getting harder and harder to find hiding places that she doesn't find in a minute. She sniffs out the biscuits but she's learned to sniff all the best places first. After they were hidden, I called, "Okay, Hannah. Come find them."

She bounded into the room, nose in high gear. It took her a little longer than usual because I found a new hiding place. But she'll remember it the next time we play.

Sometimes when she gazes at me for attention, I only have to offer one or two suggestions for activities and she'll choose. Sometimes she tells me she wants a toe clip, or to have her teeth brushed, or some other thing that some dogs wouldn't really be interested in. I think she's just thrilled to have the attention.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hannah and the Door, part 2

I wasn't thinking clearly when I taught Hannah the command, "Open the door." The problem isn't that she opens doors when she shouldn't. The problem is something else. I'll tell you.

The latch on our bedroom door doesn't latch so from the hallway all I have to do is push it and it will open. Inward. Hannah's not so thrilled to open that door, but she'll push it open. On the other hand -or rather, on the other side of the door - she could open the door because there isn't a latch, but she has to pull instead of push.

The problem is that the command was wrong. I should have been teaching her to "Push the door open" and "Pull the door open." We humans know the word "open" can include push or pull, but to an Airedale, "push" means one action, and "pull" means one thing. So I've had to go back and reteach. Now when we come in the back door or stand outside the bedroom door, I tell her to "Push the door open."

The fact is, she doesn't want to pull the door open because it pulls into her - and that's exactly what she's afraid of: being hit by a door. I know she can overcome this fear and learn this job.

To help her learn to pull the door open, I put a knot in the end of a bandanna and tied it to the inside bedroom doorknob, leaving the knot hanging down. (I should probably use a long sock and put a toy inside to make it more enticing.) Every morning when we get ready to come downstairs, I tell her "Take it" and put the knot in her mouth and hold her mouth closed around it. At first she just sat. I put her up on all legs again and tell her to "pull the door open" and help her do it. We've been doing this for a week or so.

For the past several days she's taken the knot in her mouth and held it tight. And then she lets go without pulling. I think that's a great start! Then I put it in her mouth again and help her hold it and pull the door. She's learning!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hannah and the Back Door

I've been teaching Hannah to open the door. This is a really big deal.

When she first came she was terrified of doors. She'd lived outside the better part of her life and doors were things that moved on their own without warning, things that might hit and hurt an Airedale. She stayed as far away from them as she could. That was nearly 2 years ago.

I started thinking about teaching her to open a door when I saw a video of a puppy-in-training-to-become-an-assistance-dog learning to pull a door open with a ball attached to a rope on the doorknob. It was a game to the puppy. I thought, Hannah could learn to do that.

We didn't start on pulling a door open, though. Our back door from the breezeway into the house opens inward. One day when I went out to let her back in, I left the back door slightly ajar so all it took was a push to open it. When I let Hannah into the breezeway, I didn't open the back door for her, but encouraged her to push it open, showing her how to do it. It didn't take her long to learn the command, "Open the door." Now, when she comes into the breezeway from outside, she races to the back door, stands with her front paws on the threshhold, tail wagging, and waits for me to give her the okay. She gives the door a mighty push with her nose and bounds into the house.

What a good learner!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowy Day

It snowed today.

I sensed that Hannah wanted to go outside. We went into the breezeway on our way outside. She raced around eager and excited, sniffing here and there.

I said to her, "Hannah, you're going to be very surprised when I open this door."

I opened the door, she looked out, and then said, No thank you. I want to go back inside.

So we went back inside. I can perfectly well understand that an Airedale who, in a previous life, had been chained to a tree outside would not want to go out into the snow. Sometimes she does want to and she did later that day, and enjoyed herself. She just didn't want to when I first asked her.