Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teaching Food and Toy

Ranger already knows that one paw (right) is used for shaking hands and the other (left) is used for giving high fives. He knows that the paws have different names Gee Paw is right and Haw Paw is left so I think he has a jump on learning that left is the food paw and right is the toy paw. Our first lesson of the day I went out with a chunk of leftover steak that I'd saved for this purpose and signed that is food then gave him a taste of steak. He was definitely watching the patten of movements that make up the signs but how much he was taking in is hard to guess.

Later I went out and gathered several of his toys into the area I've decided will be our outdoor classroom. I called him over and signed Ranger Attend class, Then indicating each toy signed that is toy. Then I took his favorite of the toys and a bag of treats signing that is toy before holding the toy out to him and that is food before handing him a treat. When he offered a left paw lift (food) when I was holding the toy I gave him a treat (food). Then I pointed at his right paw and told him Gee Paw when he lifted it I offered him the toy. Then pointed to the left paw and told him Haw Paw when he lifted that I gave him a treat. You could almost see the wheels going round as he tried to work out the rules of this new game. When we finished the treats in the bag I signed finished. After that we had a nice session with the brush. He relaxed into the grooming and in the sunshine his coat was glowing. Individual hairs looked like they'd been dipped in copper or silver. Some looked like spun crystal.

If he didn't already know that each paw had a different purpose I don't think I'd try teaching food and toy together. As it is I'm betting that having the distinction of one for one thing and one for another means he'll grasp food and toy fairly quickly.

This evening we went to the launch party for the Buddy Brigade. Having other dogs around that he can't play with and people that aren't petting him is somewhat stressful for Ranger. Ranger tends to act a bit silly when he's somewhat stressed. One of the behaviors he offered was to wave his left paw in the air (I'm pretty sure he is left pawed) ; I gave him a treat and he looked a bit surprised. Later when my husband had taken him for a walk and I caught up with them holding a couple of miniature cupcakes Ranger sat and waved his left paw in the air. He got most of one of the cupcakes.

I'm pretty sure I'm still just rewarding the canine equivalent of infant babbling but I have video of myself telling my mother that "if I didn't know better I'd swear [my daughter] was trying to say cat." After all everyone knows 8.5 month old babies can't talk and yet by 9 months she was making herself understood by other people.  With that cautionary tale ringing in my head I won't rule out the possibility that he's beginning to understand left paw means food and right paw means toy. When they were taking photos and trying to get all the dogs looking the same way using a squeaky toy I wish I'd paid attention to whether he moved either paw. Something to look for in the future.

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