Dog Blog

The Dog Blog is a community of ordinary dog lovers who have come together to discuss our extraordinary dogs. Each Monday, a new topic is introduced. If you've got an opinion, share it. If not, look for the current "anything goes" topic and introduce a discussion of your own. On Fridays, weigh in about your training questions and successes.
Your host: Mike Lewis is a little-dog nerd and the proud owner of Eddie and Jillian, a pair of Yorkies who think they're huskies, and Lucy, a sweet Chessie. R.I.P., Rusty. Contact

Parks and Rec Committee approves fenced dog park - 1/10/2013 3:33 pm

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Kitty and K9 Connection: Meet Nano - 1/4/2013 7:04 pm

What are your New Year's resolutions for your dogs? - 1/2/2013 4:29 pm

AACCC Adoption of the Week: Meet Rudy - 1/2/2013 4:14 pm

Take extra precaution with dogs on New Year's - 12/31/2012 11:58 am

Friday training talk -- what's up with your pack? - 12/28/2012 11:09 am

AACCC Adoption of the Week: Meet Chris K - 12/27/2012 12:27 pm

Friday training talk -- what's up with your pack?

Use this space to discuss training issues -- brag about successes, lament setbacks or bounce a question off the group.

Here's my report:

Eddie: I've been working at teaching him a soft speak in addition to a louder bark. I call it his "hospital voice" for when we visit Providence as a therapy dog team. It's not only practical -- I don't want him barking loud in the hospital -- but it's kinda fun.

I started out rewarding him for "speak" no matter what he did audibly. I'd ring the doorbell (prompting a bark), give him the speak command and reward success with a treat.

If he just opened his mouth, he got a treat. I did that because my wife wasn't keen on the idea of teaching a breed known for yapping to bark on command. But I'd heard that if you can teach a dog to speak on command, it helps them understand what it is you want them to stop doing too. He has a "speak" and a "no bark" that are both generally pretty reliable.

So he developed two kinds of barks that he would give me depending on his mood -- the soft woof and the louder bark. To get him to distinguish the two, I changed my hand signal and verbal command and only rewarded when he gave me the bark I wanted. For speak, I kept our original command -- "speak" in conjunction with my hand opening. For soft speak, I use "soft" in a lower-toned voice and open just my thumb and index finger.

I'd say he's at about 75 percent. If I do it in sequence -- start with soft then go to loud -- he gets it. But when I start mixing it up, he gets a little unsure. But I've been working on it steadily for about two weeks and he's showing improvement almost every session.

Jillie: I'm about ready to give up on teaching her to speak. Funny, because she's the biggest yapper int he house. But get her to do it on command? No way! But she has mastered the retrieve of a large ball -- almost beachball size. Funny, because Eddie is my smarty and he hasn't figured it out yet.

I started by placing the ball between her and me and telling her to bring it. She'd bite at it and it would roll to me. I'd reward with a treat. The problem came when she had to turn it around or move it directionally. She was just biting at it and getting frustrated. So I took her outside on a groomed trail where she couldn't get off track. That worked like a charm. She successfully retrieved the big ball every time. Once she learned how much fun it was, she improved indoors as well. She can now dig it out of corners, walk it around obstacles and generally avoid getting it stuck. Fun trick. I have a video of this on youtube with copyrighted music that I can't feature here, but I'll remove the music and post a link soon.

Lucy: Her heels have really gotten good. If I ask her to, she'll walk right next to me unleashed for the entire 20-minute walk. I started by giving her lots of treats to keep her there, but I've cut them back so I only need to reward her a couple times on a walk.

What's up with your crew?

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