Need help teaching a young dog new tricks.
December 30, 2006 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Need help teaching a young dog new tricks.

I recently adopted a ~1 year old mut through a friend who needed a home. The dog looks like a Collie & Australian Shepard mix according to friends and the vet but her origins are unknown (my friend's parents found her on the street at about a month old).

Anyway, the dog is surprisingly very smart and a joy to have around. So far she can sit, stand, shake hands, wave, lay down, fetch and we are working on rolling over (she almost has it). She is not 100% on the heeling yet either. I think she could eventually be a great Frisbee catching dog, but she doesn't seem to have the mouth-eye coordination down yet.

How do I nurture the curiosity and intelligence of this dog? I've been considering doing obedience training with her, but she is already very well behaved so I'm not sure what I will gain by doing that.

I've googled around for tips and trick and find that good web site are hard to find on the subject. Good links and book recommendations are very welcome here. Any advice welcome.

I found that a lot of resources have instruction on what you need to do when the dog is still a puppy, but that isn't possible now. She is eager to learn what I teach her and responds well to praise.
posted by nickerbocker to Pets & Animals (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could try agility training, or you could see this post about things to teach a working breed.
posted by dilettante at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2006

Look into clicker training. It doesn't matter how old the dog is.
posted by dobbs at 9:50 AM on December 30, 2006

I second clicker traning. Definitely take some obediance training classes. These are more for you than the dog, the dog is just there for you to practice on. When I took agility classes the teacher could get my dog to do anything. He was smart, I was the dumb one. You could also look into canine freestyle (choreographed dancing with your dog).
posted by BoscosMom at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2006

Here's a list with links, of things to do with your dog. Also, your dog is not old at all. A service dog organization in my area (Freedom Service Dogs) takes dogs in at 18 months (they get them from animal shelters). A younger dog would be sent to a foster home until it was mature enough to start training service skills.
Some of the best "tricks" are taught by catching your dog doing something naturally and reinforcing it. I was teaching my dog to bring me things when I point to them. My wallet fell open as he was retrieving it and he grabbed a credit card and brought that to me, so I gave him lots of treats and petting and made a big fuss about what a good dog he was. We did it a few more times right away and more throughout the day, and now it's one of his best tricks (so far).
Don't Shoot the Dog is a clicker training book that I started with.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2006

look around for a good obedience training class in your area that emphasizes positive-reinforcemtn training, and take your dog through at least the beginning classes, even if she is already well behaved.

a big part of obedience training is the bonding experience between the dog and owner. it can also be an excellent social experience for both you and your dog, and can give you a good idea of what other activities you and your dog will enjoy. basic obedience classes really lay the foundation for your future relationship with your dog.

i've worked in a large regional animal shelter for nearly 13 years now, and can tell you that the majority of the dogs that are relinquished by their owners have had no obedience training at all. when people and their pets are not a "team," there is far less of a bond between them, and it's so much easier for the relationship to be broken when things get even remotely tough (i.e., when people move or situations change, people who haven't taken the time to develop a close relationship with their pet are much quicker to get rid of it than to consider it a member of the family and to take the time to find a situation that includes the pet).

you are on the right track, and you are the kind of owner i wish we could find for all our pets, because you really are considering your dog's needs in a responsible manner. dogs are really wonderful animals when given the love, respect, and consistent direction they crave. when they don't have these things, they can become real problems for their owners -- and then become even bigger problems for potential new owners, who have to start at the beginning if they are to help these animals to fit into society.

it's never, ever too late to train a dog. even older dogs love the attention and bonding that comes from obedience classes. they love being the center of their human's attention for that hour a week class, and the time you spend each day working on their lessons. you will never regret the investment you make by taking your dog through a good class, and you'll lay a good foundation for whatever other activity you want to pursue later.

good luck and have fun with your dog! and bless you for giving a wonderful home to a deserving "secondhand" pet.
posted by doplgangr at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2006

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