Julie Hecht, one of our favorite pup science writers, recently took a look at Chaser the Border Collie, a particularly talented dog with a vocabulary of 1000+ words! How did Chaser (and Chaser’s human, John Pilley) master the feat? And how can you start turning your dog into a regular Bill Shakespeare or Bert Einstein? Well, here are some of the essential steps:
– Start with tasks so simple, your dog can’t make a mistake. And reward, reinforce, practice those tasks as much as possible! Play. It builds your dog’s confidence, and it builds your relationship
– Be gentle with your ‘No.’ Dogs are sensitive to making mistakes, just like we are. If you’re too harsh, you risk discouraging your dog’s interest in learning
– Let the puppy be a puppy. If things are getting frustrating, take a step back and keep things fun!
– Teach verbs first, objects second. Most commands are verbs- sit, catch, etc. After your dog has the actions on lockdown, you can expand to objects like ball or frisbee. (and it helps to repeat the name of the object while your pup plays with it. Teach one object at a time to keep things extra clear!)
– Learning builds on learning. And nothing helps more than practice.
So it really sounds like it all comes down to: take it slow, practice consistently, and make sure your dog is enjoying the process as much as you are. As John Pilley says: “Find out what makes your dog happy, and give your dog opportunities to explore its interests.”
Check out the whole story here!