September Morn, well-known dog-writer and trainer, posted the following to DogTrek, a Yahoo Group, on 9 May, 2005. The article enchanted me, as much of September's writing does, so I asked her permission to post it here on Coherent Dog. Kind September gave the permission, so here is the article.
Photo of Blue to follow, when September gets a Round Tuit
"Yes," "No," "That One," "The Other One," "More," and "All"
I tend to "converse" with my cues rather than "command" with them.
Blue, my three-year-old Rottieboy, especially likes to help around the house by picking up things I ask for and bringing them to me. Sometimes there will be several items near each other in the direction I send him, and I only want one or two of them, and I haven't taught him the name of the item. Here's what transpires.
I say to Blue, "Get me that, please" and I gesture in the direction of the item I need. He goes in that direction and moves to pick up the item he thinks I want. If he's guessed right, I say, "Yes, that one," and he picks it up and delivers it to my hand (or places it in the container I indicate).
If he's moved to pick up a different item than the one I wanted, I say "No, the other one." So he moves to pick up "the other one", and I say "Yes, that one!" and he brings it to me.
To my dogs, "No" does not mean "don't do that ever," it only means "not this time." It is an informational word. And it doesn't inhibit the dog from bringing me that item in either the near or distant future. Because that "no" item might be the very one I ask for next.
I also use "the other one" when there are two items I need and Blue has just brought me one of them. Examples are my shoes (I like to have a pair on when we go outside); or the empty feeding dishes after the dogs eat.
There is also "More", as in "Bring more!" This I'd use if there's a bunch of similar items I want, like pieces of torn-up paper bag all over the floor (fun game we play here - shred the paper). First I'll say "Get me that, please" and point toward a piece of the paper. He brings me that and then I ask him to "Get more", which he does.
If I want every item, I ask him to "Get more. Get them all." And he does. If there are a lot of items, I'll periodically reward him with a treat before sending him to bring more.
If he starts to pick up an item I don't want, something I've had him bring me before and might ask for in the future, I'll say, "No, leave that there please." And he does. He doesn't look disappointed or chastised when I ask him to leave something where it is. He asks me with his eyes if there's something I would like him to get for me.
Blue's such a lovely boy, and really a big help!
September Morn has trained dogs professionally for three decades. She has worked with more than 125 different breeds and countless mixes, and has personally lived with the following breeds as family members: Rottweiler, German Shepherd Dog, American Eskimo Dog, Akita, Collie, Pomeranian, English Setter, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Wolf-hybrid, and a number of unique mixes. September has published over 150 articles in national magazines and has written several dog training books. She is currently the Ask Dog Fancy and Good Puppy columnist for Dog Fancy magazine, the Ask Dogs For Kids columnist for Dogs For Kids magazine and is working on a new book, titled tentatively, Smart Guide to Reward-Based Dog Training.
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