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The counting dog trick!

Foreword: As miraculous as this counting dog thing seems, it is in reality just a trick. A very cleverly disguised trick, but still a trick. With a lot of patience, time, and the correct teaching method, most dogs can learn to 'count'. Please note that this is a more challenging trick, and Rover must learn SPEAK first.


Second Foreword: The main part in teaching this trick is getting your Rover to respond to a hardly noticeable signal. They learn to listen for the "What is ........, Rover? This is the cue for them to start barking, until they see the signal to stop. In the past there have been many such animals which could 'count', such as a counting horse. This horse had been trained to observe its audience nodding to each correct foot pawing it would do, until the correct number had been reached. Then the audience, without even realizing it, would stop nodding their heads, waiting to see if the horse would stop at the correct number. This method of course was ingenious, for it took the attention off the trainer (because when testing the legitimacy of the horse, the trainer would be watched closely for any signs of a signal).

Directions: First of all, Rover needs to know how to bark on cue, and also to stop barking on cue. And these can't be normal barks, they need to be controlled and countable. Follow the directions for SPEAK to teach this. Now think what kind of cues you wish to use. Using "what is" can run you into trouble, for Rover might start to bark before you actually said the number. Now in the beginning you will have to combine your almost invisible signal with a word command. And also make the hand/head signal pretty noticeable. Say "Rover, BARK" and deeply nod your head. Then "Rover, STOP" and deeply nod you head again. This is just an example, your cue words/signals can differ. Repeat this over a couple of training sessions until Rover response to your signals alone. What I do is to give the signal first, then the word command, treat if the dog response after the signal. This of course, as with any trick, must be taught in progressive stages. You can then slowly diminish your head/hand signal.

Of course, in order for this trick to be successfully, your Rover needs to be trained to observe the smallest of signal. Check FOCUS for help on this.

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