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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Communication Part Two

As is most important with any new dog, housetraining took a front seat in our new life together.  Treasure was not housetrained when she came to me.  We were making progress with it, but it was still a bit touch and go sometimes.  I started to name outside while I carried her out the door into the yard.  I did the sign many times.  First when I picked her up to let her know where we were going, a time or two on the way to the door at first to keep her aware of the sign I wanted her to learn, then very importantly as I opened the door and she first felt the outside air on her face.
I decided to start to teach the sign for inside at the same time.  Because we spent many times going in and out every day, I thought this would be a great opportunity to teach two different signs.  And it was something very obvious so I could remember to use them both consistently. 
My goal is to be able to give Treasure the inside or outside sign as the other dogs and I are headed to the door, so she will know to follow along.  Often I will get to the door to let the other dogs outside or back into the house only to see Treasure searching to see where everyone went.  We are still working on it, but I do think she is recognizing the signs now.  Only problem I’m running into is that Treasure is small, so I find myself bending over to touch her with a sign and sometimes she is surprised by me and moves away before I can give the sign.  Still working out that part of it.  We’re both getting better at it.
I find that if I touch her in a neutral way first and keep that hand in place to sort of anchor her, I can then use the other hand to give the touch sign.  That seems to work pretty well so far.  That way she is not startled by the sign and won't move away from it. I do have a background with sign language, so I chose to use very simple ASL signs for home (inside) and out (outside) against the side of Treasure's face.  At first I wondered if the signs were clear enough for her to understand, but it is obvious to me that she is responding to them now.  I just need to choose the sign I want to use and then be consistent with using it.

For mealtime, I tap the side of her muzzle three times quickly in succession near her whiskers, similar to the ASL eat sign.  I just introduced a sign for going in the car.  I used a fist moving from one of her shoulders, up over her back, and to the other shoulder, similar to drawing the top of a steering wheel in the air, but instead drawing it on her shoulders.  She knows the sign for all done means there are no more treats coming!  Otherwise, she will continue to look all day!  She does love to eat!  Again, I use the sign for all done against the side of her face. 

I taught all of these signs just by using them consistently immediately prior to whatever I was naming.  For all done, I gave her several small treats in a row, one after the other, then signed all done and stopped.  I made sure the treats were all gone, because if she could smell them, she would keep looking!  If she kept looking anyway, I signed all done again.  She learned to understand that if there was no sign, then more treats were coming, but if there was a sign, then no more would show up no matter how much she searched.  Now she knows not to search after I sign all done. 

On a wonderful note, Treasure walked all the way across the room to her crate on her own this morning for breakfast!  Once she got there, she wasn't sure what to do, so I steered her in the right direction to go in.  She eats in her crate because I have several other dogs and they would easily take advantage of her not being able to see them sneaking up to grab a bite!  I've been carrying her and setting her down a short distance from the crate and letting her go in by herself.  As she gets better, I set her down farther away each time.  This was a first, as she deliberately walked looking for the crate until she got there.  Yesterday, I came into the room to find her standing inside her crate, sniffing for her breakfast.  I hadn't started to dish out the food yet, so I think she thought my shower was taking too long and took it upon herself to make a statement! 

1 comment:

  1. This is great info. I never thought to name things for Jack, all of my touch has been for behavior. I am going to start naming and see how it goes. Thank you for the sign descriptions, I do not know sign language so this is a big help.