Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks
Our dog Martha understands English. She can not speak English like her namesake Martha in the Martha Speaks books by Susan Meddaugh. Our dog Martha understands sit and down and come. She will sit when you ask her. She will lay down when you ask her. She will not come when you ask her. We bought Martha from Craigslist on December 2nd, 2008. I wrote about Martha in a previous post. Our Dogs Name is Martha. The previous owners had not taught her to come. And I didn’t teach her either. Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? My youngest daughter told me that Mythbusters had done an episode on Dog Myths.
In episode #74 Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, after four days of training, taught a pair of 7-year-old Alaskan malamutes, who didn’t know any tricks, how to heel, sit, lie down, stay and shake upon command. They busted the Myth written in 1523 by an Englishman , Fitgeralkd : “the dogge must lerne when he is a whelpe, or els it wyl not be; for it is harde to make an old dogge to stoupe.”
Martha use to come when you had a piece of meat to entice her to come back after she ran out of the front door.
Last weekend when we had company she ran out the front door. When I ran out the door after her calling her name and waving a piece of hot dog, she turned her head, looked at me, and then kept running. She took off running three times in one day.
Martha did not want to come home. I don’t really blame her. I use to walk her every morning and evening. I hadn’t walked her for several weeks. She had started to not listen to me in the house. I would say, “Martha come!” and she would ignore me and stay where she was. I didn’t correct her bad attitude then. If she wouldn’t listen to me within the home, why would she listen to me outside.
Martha is back on her regular walks. She has to sit before she gets her supper. When we walk she heels, not pulling ahead on the lease like she used to. During the walks I will run backward saying, “Come Martha.” Teaching her to come. I am working on keeping the front door closed.
The last time Martha ran out the open front door, ( no she didn’t just run, she bolted) she kept running as I yelled her name. I felt so angry when she wouldn’t listen to me. ” Hey, dog, I have been so kind to you. Walking you, picking up your poop, feeding you, and you won’t come when I call! “I know I always have to be nice to her. Why would she come to me, if I scolded her after she listened?
I ran in the house and got my keys, jumped in the van and drove around the block to wait for her to appear from behind the neighbor’s house at the end of the block. I stood on the grass, holding a piece of brie cheese, waiting for her. She came out of the trees behind the neighbor’s house and saw me. I called her name, “Martha, come here honey. I have a treat for you.” She came to me and accepted the piece of cheese. I put on her lease and put her in the van. The week before when I called her, she ran past me and up the other side of the block. There was improvement. Not perfection, but improvement.
Martha is learning new tricks.
I am learning that if I want Martha to come to me, I have to be someone she wants to come to.
About Pamela Hodges
My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.