Despite what you’ve heard, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Just ask Teresa Gary from the town Cool in El Dorado County.
In her new book, “English for Dogs,” the former high school English teacher describes “50 words every well-mannered companion should know.” Terry began developing her approach after taking in a rescued Sheltie called Prince, who just wanted to be fed and left alone. A dog like that is not the easiest to train and Terry, who’d had years of experience schooling dogs to compete in obedience and agility trials, found that she just wasn’t getting through. Until, that is, she reverted to thinking like a high school English teacher.
Terry simplified the commands she used and disciplined herself to use them consistently and in the same order. “English for Dogs” teaches that technique. “Yes” and “watch” are the foundation upon which other commands, such as “take it,” “off,” “come,” “leave it,” “give,” “stay,” “easy,” “hurry,” “potty,” “settle,” “quiet,” “wait,” fetch,” “up” and “free” are understood by the dog.
Having a well-trained dog is a particularly valuable when traveling in a vehicle. “Load up” says to a dog that it’s time to get secured, whether in a crate, harnessed or tethered. The command begins with the dog on leash. Pat the floor or seat and say “load up.” Should the dog indicate he understands, reinforce with “yes!” Once your dog gets into the vehicle on his own, treat him. After he’s accustomed to the vehicle, teach “release,” “off,” “out,” or “free” while encouraging him to jump down. Again, reinforce with “yes” and a treat or praise. ¬†Soon, the dog will associate “load up” with “we’re going somewhere interesting” and be eager to travel.
The “English for Dogs” method is easy, though it requires persistence. Terry’s book can be purchased online at www.alpinepub.com. Although your dog may be a quick learner, don’t give him the assignment to fetch it from the Internet. Keyboard design hasn’t yet caught up with the size of a dog’s paws.