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February 6th, 2007


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09:03 am - Training Strategies
As many people know, one of the best ways to train an animal (or a child even) is to find something that they do already, and associate it with a command. I've mentioned before that my father used to impress his university professor friends with his brilliant three-year-old daughter by asking such questions as, "Who was the Republican Presidential candidate of 1948?" To which I would reply, on cue, "Dewey!"

I think every child when learning to talk eventually hits on a word or phrase that they just like and say over and over and over with glee. For some, it is "spoon!" For me, it was "Dewey!" No, I have no idea why. I was three, for God's sake! Anyway, Dad of course, saw the potential in this immediately, and came up with a question to match the inevitable answer.

It wasn't until I was in junior high that I even knew what a "Republican presidential candidate" was, but I clearly remember in one social studies class having the teacher ask, "Can anyone tell me who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1948?" and shooting my hand up. I got a gold star, because I was the only one who knew.

But I digress. The point is, kids or animals, the best way to get them to do a trick is to find something they already do and just say the command at the appropriate time such that people think they are obeying your command.

Thus it was with my cat, Pouncer.

Pouncer, for some reason, likes to play with the scrunchies in my hair. He has even gone so far as to walk up behind me along the edge of the couch, take hold of one, and actually pull it off and run away. A few months ago, it suddenly occurred to him that if I was bent over petting one of the other cats, he could jump up on my back and walk up to my head where his beloved scrunchie awaited. While rubbing his face on the scrunchie and purring like a lawnmower, he would knead my neck and back with his little kitty paws in the sheer joy of scrunchieness.

At first, this was a bit disconcerting. After all, I didn't want to just stand back up, because I imagined this would result in ... err ... injury. Cats on a surface that starts to turn vertical have, after all, a tendency to dig their claws in like pitons and hold on for dear life. After walking around hunched over for a bit, though, I found that I could get him off my back by tapping on the coffee table in front of him.

This problem solved, I realized I had something pretty impressive I could show off to Charlie. After all, it's widely considered to be difficult to train cats so this would be a definite show of my genius in animal handling. Yes, yes. This was going to be sweet.

I followed Charlie into the room where Pouncer and the cats were and said, "Hey, honey, I taught Pouncer a new trick!"

Pouncer's previous "trick" had been "taught" to him by Charlie, and consisted of merely rising up on his hind legs and grabbing for Charlie's hand if Charlie stopped petting him. In addition, Pouncer never would do his "trick" when I was watching, making me suspect that something was lacking in the whole training environment. Charlie, probably thinking of this, looked at me skeptically.

"Watch," I said, and bent down to pet one of the other cats. "Pouncer!" I said cheerfully, "Back rubs!"

And indeed, Pouncer jumped up on my back and commenced to walking around and kneading.

Charlie's jaw dropped, and he just looked at me for a second.

"That is SO wrong," he said, shaking his head and laughing.

Personally, I think he's just jealous of my elite animal training skills.

(27 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:ktkatrina
Date:February 6th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes. I know that training method well.

Bowie thinks he is a 'lap dog'. If you pet him while sitting on a couch or chair, he wil inevitably try and crawl up into your lap (even though hes not 'allowed' on furniture).

One day I came home from work and was feeling very blah, crampy, etc. So I lay down on the couch and call bowie over thinking a canine heating pad might be nice, and pat my stomach inviting him up.

Of course, being a 46 pound dog, hes more of a 'lap and a half' dog, and if there are two people on the couch, he'll climb up and lay between them for maximum petting potential. This of course leads to the game of "Doggie heads or tails" - depending on which side he climbs up from, someone always looses and gets 'doggie tails' or aka, Dog rump in their lap to bestow attention on.

So, with me laying on the whole couch, I was bound to loose somehow....
and thus I ended up with a happy dog plopping down with his butt in my face.

*snort*

[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 6th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
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That's when you go, "Bowie! Butt-face!"

Then everyone will applaud you for teaching Bowie a funny trick.

hehe!
[User Picture]
From:xviragox
Date:February 6th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Ha!

The only command I have a good chance of 'training' my cat to follow is: "Julia! Shit on the floor while I'm gone!"
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 6th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
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Don't be so modest. I'm sure you're forgetting, "Julia! Puke on the floor while I'm sleeping right in the path from my bed to the bathroom!" and "Julia! Pull some of the carpet off the tack strip!"
[User Picture]
From:xviragox
Date:February 6th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Right now it's too cold for her to leave my side during the night, but I'm sure we can work on that one as the weather improves...
From:jmcg
Date:February 6th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
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I've been trying to teach Toby 'No Biting' using the same technique with little success and lots of bandaids :lol:
[User Picture]
From:siliconshaman
Date:February 6th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
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Ummm... you know that game of guessing if somethings in your right or left hand. Yah, I do that with our amy-cat. It's crunchies she's after, so that's her motivation... but she enjoys the game too.

I gotta get some video footage of that sometime.
[User Picture]
From:diachrony
Date:February 6th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
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This is such a cute story (well, two stories; "Dewey" and "kitty backrubs"). ♥ ♥ ♥

Much enjoyment and giggles from reading this, thank you.

Now I wonder, if I get myself the guinea piggies I've been wanting ... what could I train 'em to do? "Run up inside my sleeve! There's a clever piggie!"

(My piggies did do that, until they grew too big to fit up my sleeves. It actually impressed *some* people ...)
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 7th, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
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Doesn't matter what they do, as long as they do it a lot and you connect words to it when people are over. :-)

Hehe!
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
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If I wave my hands like an idiot,the dogs will all bark like maniacs.
I could tell people it's choral singing.
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 01:48 am (UTC)
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Okay, see, NOW you're talkin'!

"Show us the Choir, boys! Choir!" *wave hands*
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 8th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)

Dewey

(Link)
Damn the Library of Congress!
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
I'll have to tell Dad he missed that one. "Hey, Dad, how come it was the Republican Presidential Candidate of 1948 and not 'what's that decimal system called that the libraries use?' 'Dewey!'"
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
Who is Huey and Louie's brother?
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

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No, he did that one.
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

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Who was also the only person in the history of the United States to have attained the rank of Admiral of the Navy?
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

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Ooh, good one!

"Who chaired the Commission of Enquiry which cleared Trotsky of the charges brought against him by Stalin in 1937?"
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

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*guesses*Igor Ivanovich Bobolinkev?
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 05:03 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

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DEWEY!!!!
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)

Re: DOH!!!!!

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I did not see that coming.
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)

Re: DOH!!!!!

(Link)
I know. It's a shocker, isn't it?
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
Who was the first Govenor of Wisconson?
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
*Wisconsin
[User Picture]
From:mrsveteran
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
"Who was the first American casualty of the Vietnam war?"
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
Beat me to it.
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
Who was the founder of functional psychology?
[User Picture]
From:stardragonca
Date:February 9th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Dewey

(Link)
Good Mrs.Veteran! Good!

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