I am working with a blind rescue pointer named Georgie.
He has been at his new home for about 6 weeks now. He has learned to walk the stairs, he enjoys going for walks and has started to stalk birds!
That surprised me. How can he point out birds without seeing them?
He enjoys meeting all dogs on his walks. He loves to go out.
So, all in all he was doing well.
What was concerning me was that he still had not learned any “English”.
He started to recognize his name when called and would approach but then would shy away just before reaching me. He is hand shy when approached from the front, he would not take treats. He can not be lured into a sit because he is not food motivated enough. He had never learned the word “sit” before and he hardly ever sits anyway, so capturing the “sit” was really impossible.
I was becoming impatient with myself because I felt I had better come up with a starting point so he could understand more. I told myself that it really did not matter where I started. The hell with teaching things “in order”.
I also told myself I would accept tiny increments of anything in any direction that he would offer.
So this is what I did: I snapped my fingers about 2 inches away from his nose. When he moved toward my fingers I would click and reward. After a few tries he voluntarily very lightly touch my hand every time after I snapped my fingers.
Then, I tried to move my hand slightly. He showed a great preference to moving his head downwards. So I went with that. I moved my hand further and further down and back until he plopped into a down position.
We had a great celebration when he laid down!!!! I gave him a jackpot of treats! We were both equally astonished that we had accomplished this together.
Then I called his name and clapped my hands to encourage him to get up and stand again. He did.
After a few more tries he actually went from stand to down to stand directly!
That is considered “advanced” obedience because it is not a natural thing for a dog to do. Most dogs sit before they lie down. But Georgie does not “sit” naturally…so, who cares?
I have hardly ever seen a dog so happy.
We then showed his new accomplishment off to his owner. In a different room and with all his siblings watching!
It was a wonderful moment.
Georgie then immediately wanted to run back into the room where he had learned his first cue! But it was dinner time ….