DEAR OLD TRAINER: Your advice on how to teach “left” and “right” really worked. I was skeptical if Keely, my Springer, and Spec, my Brittany, could figure it out, but they learned it in two days and it was easy. What else can I teach them?
Dexter, Lodi, Calif.
A: Anything that pops into your mind. The nice thing about routine training is you just go about your daily routine, assign commands to what you do and your dogs learn with no effort on your part.
I try to add at least one command a week for my pack. Two weeks ago I started saying “feed the birds,” as I got the bird seed ready. Now, as soon as they hear it they race me to the bird feeders.
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I added one this week they love. They already knew to bark when I said, “speak.” I changed the command from “speak” to “say goodbye,” and held the phone out when I said it. Now, when I finish a call with a friend, I say, “hold it, the dogs have something to say,” then hold the phone out to the pack and tell them “say goodbye.” They like it so much they listen for the slight change in voice tone when I’m about to end a call and start singing to hurry me up so they can bark.
It makes no difference what you say as long as it’s part of your routine. Some of the others I use are “go for a ride,” “dinner time,” “bed time,” and “take a nap.” If it’s something the dogs are used to doing with you, all you do is give it a name and let them figure it out.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: Your column about giving summer haircuts makes a lot of sense to me because Buster, my Australian Shepherd, has a very thick coat and it seems like he suffers in the summers we have here. Do you use an electric clipper or scissors? I have no experience so should I hire a groomer.
Anne, Topeka, Kan.
A: Buster DOES suffer in the summer. Every dog with a thick coat does. A summer haircut not only gives Buster relief from the heat, it helps him shed the almost impenetrable undercoat many Aussies have and makes it easy for you check for fleas, ticks and skin problems.
Hire a groomer if you prefer, but make sure they understand they are not to shave Buster. Groomers will sometimes do that because it is faster and easier, but shaving a dog is a mistake. If nature thought it was a good idea, dogs would shed all their fur but there is not a single breed that does
Buster will be happier if you do the clipping. A dog feels special when the person they love most does the grooming. You’ll be happier too.
Buy a good pair of scissors at a beauty supply shop and cut a little at a time, starting where the tail joins the body. Leave the fur one-half inch long. Spread the cut over several days. Call Buster to the hose and run cool water over him each time you trim him. Don’t worry about how the cut looks because Buster won’t.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.