German Shepherd Dog

Dog Training is Work Never Finished!

By John Dow


Just when I think I’ve got my dog Tuxcitto in control he gives me a demonstration that this well may be a life long pursuit. Tuxcitto is a Border Collie that has an uncanny learning capability. Not from my dog training skills but from observation. He watches everything that goes on around him.

And you never know when he’s going to add one and one to get two. Tuxcitto excels in obedience training when in sight or when his master is around. All I have to do is show him what I want him to do and then repeat it for a few days and he nails it after that. His ability to learn has always been obvious from the first day we brought him home.

But he also learns on his own. We have a good-sized front and back yard. And both dogs (I have an older female dog named Spoofy) know that they can do anything they want as long as it’s in our yard. We live in a small community and have lots of neighbors with dogs. From time to time one of them comes over for a visit.

No problem there except the temptation for our dogs to go run with the visiting dogs is too much to handle sometimes. Since most neighbors are dog owners this is not a problem. Except that my dogs are supposed to stay in my yard. That’s the rule. But we all know rules are made to be broken.

So one day a friend’s dog comes over to play and Tuxcitto follows him back to his yard. I happen to see this and go out and call Tuxcitto to come home. Tuxcitto comes back and everything is fine. I look back out a few minutes later and no Tuxcitto. So this time I call him home and bring him into the house.

If he can’t follow the rules, inside he goes. I go about my daily tasks and forget about it. Some time later I glance out the window and to my surprise, there’s Tuxcitto out in the front yard. And along with him are our two inside cats. Both these cats stay inside since they are both scared of their own shadows.

After a quick look around, I see that the back bedroom sliding glass door is open. Great, Tuxcitto has learned how to open the sliding glass door. This is not a good thing since we have several around our house. And although it’s no big deal for Tuxcitto to get out, the cats are a whole different issue. So I close the sliding glass door and go round up the animals and bring them inside.

Knowing that Tuxcitto will gladly give another demonstration of his new trick, I walk out another door to the backyard and wait. Within minutes I see him use his paws on the end of the door and pull it open. It took him about 5 seconds. Did I mention that he already knows how to open doors with doorknobs? He learned that trick in his second week at the house.

Now I have a challenge in that it’s much easier to teach Tuxcitto how to do something rather than teach him not to do something. So now I had to figure out a way to teach Tuxcitto not to open the door. One way that I’ve had some good success with is to demonstrate a certain result that he doesn’t like when he fails to follow my commands.

So I started with showing him the door, then telling him no. Tuxcitto understands no, so I believe he understood that the door was not something he was to go near in the future. But that doesn’t always work when I’m not present to reinforce the command.

So I then locked the door and both Tuxcitto and I went back to the other part of the house. I don’t know if he went back and tried to open the door that day but I believe he might have knowing his nature. A few days went by and I decided to test his memory.

I work out of a home office so the dogs and the cats generally follow me around all day. If I’m in the office they usually come in and lay down near me. If I go to the kitchen, or anywhere else, they follow me. So I set up the test by going back into the back bedroom and unlocking the door and going out into the back yard.

I came back in and did not lock the sliding glass door. I then went back to my office, with all in tow. So now I keep a close eye on Tuxcitto to see if he would make his move. I’ve made the mistake before of under estimating his intelligence and I’m not going there again.

Sure enough, after a little while he got up and looked at me, and I ignored him, and he sauntered off. As soon as he went down the back hall I knew where he was going. I quickly slipped out another door and went to stand out of sight but close to the outside of the back bedroom sliding door.

I heard him start trying to slide the door back and walked up close enough to be in direct sight when he came out the door. As soon as the door opened I said his name and then told him no in a very stern manner. He froze, caught in the act. I came in through the door and told him no again and sent him to his couch. When he does something he’s not supposed to he gets sent to his couch, which is leather I might add so it’s not too harsh a punishment.

We went through this ritual about 3 more times before he figured out that it was a trap. I don’t care if he doesn’t open the door because I told him no or because he thinks I’m waiting outside to catch him. Either way he understands that you don’t go open that sliding glass door.

From time to time I do catch him looking or even walking up to the sliding glass door but he doesn’t try to open it. The crazy thing about this whole deal is he can go outside anytime he wants. All he needs to do is go sit by the front door. I let the dogs out many times each day, whenever they want.

Now if I could just get Tuxcitto to resist the temptation to go out of the yard I would be overjoyed. But I know that that may be too much for his personality to handle so I cut him some slack. After all we all have our weak spots and his are few.

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