Willie & Sushi (and Hope) Update

A reader asked for an update about Will and Sushi, so I thought it was time to fill you in on how it is going. I’m happy to report that things are going extremely well. (Whew!) The entire story would be a chapter in a book (and probably will be!), but here’s the summary:

Problem: Willie stalking Sushi the cat. As I said in earlier posts, this is very different from “chasing the cat.” Cat chasing can be a serious problem, don’t get me wrong, especially if it is predatory and not initially motivated by play, but “strong-eyed” herding dogs who automatically go into a stalking posture around a cat are a real challenge. Using positive reinforcement for, say, looking at the cat and then turning to look at me for a treat or a toy wasn’t working.

The primary problem is that once a strong-eyed dog makes visual contact with an animal it sees as something to be herded, it is extremely hard for the dog not to begin stalking. I’ve read so many books that describe Border collies as “mesmerizing their prey” with their intense stare, but in truth it’s the exact opposite. It’s the dog that goes into a trance.

Super “strong-eyed” dogs are not favored by the top handlers, because they literally become “stuck” once they make contact with the sheep. They just stop moving altogether and stand like statues while you whistle yourself silly trying to get them to move. I’ve worked on that with Willie, having been encouraged by Alisdair McRae  to keep Willie moving and simply not let him stop or lie down for months and months during his early training. (I used to call Alisdair the “Tiger Woods of Herding” but it no longer seems like the compliment it is meant to be!) Willie still can get stuck sometimes, but it doesn’t happen very often at the farm and I’m grateful for the advice that Alisdair gave me early on.

But that strong-eyed predisposition made working with him and Sushi especially difficult. All the techniques you would use (and I did use to cure  him of bark/lunging at other dogs) don’t work in this situation. Teaching him to look at the cat on cue made things worse, and teaching him to get a toy as soon as he saw the cat didn’t work either. Once he saw the cat, he was lost in stalking-land. I tried telling him to lie down every time he saw the cat, but that just kept him in herding mode. (You can read more about what I’ve worked on in Willie & Sushi Part II, 12/9/2009).

We made big strides when I switched to asking for a Sit rather than a Lie Down (not a posture a herding dog takes when working, unless they are a tad confused). Once he had sat down, I reinforced him with play. That helped a great deal. But the next break through was serendipitous: I sent Sushi to a boarding kennel for a few days when a cat-allergic house guest came to visit. Sushi was gone for 3 days, and when she returned I made a decision to use (cover your ears here if you believe in 100% positive reinforcement and consider even mildest of punishments a sin) positive punishment when he focused on Sushi. Three times I threw something soft in between him and Sushi when he lowered his head toward her (twice it was my bait bag full of treats!), then we ran in the living room and played with his toys. Ever since he has been great. I think the combination of the work we’ve done before, the break from having Sushi in the house and starting over anew by stopping the behavior before it could start again was the key.

Granted, it  doesn’t hurt have a puppy to play with to keep his attention off the cat, but the problem was handled before the puppy came. Willie still focuses on Sushi if he sees her in the window, but as soon as she comes in he turns away from her and grabs a toy. GOOD BOY!!!

None of this would have worked if I hadn’t had a good foundation laid beforehand, but it sure feels good right now. Of course, it’s also summer and Sushi is outside a lot, so the big test will come next winter, but right now the Willie/Sushi problem is history. Of course, now I’m working on teaching Hope not to chase the cat (more on that later, but it’s going really, really well…).

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Will and Hope are playing beautifully in the house together, lots of tooth fencing and wrestle play. Every once in awhile Will seems to get a tad irritated and end the play session with a snap and an offensive pucker, but it’s rare and probably appropriate, given that shark-tooth Hope isn’t always mindful of the arsenal he is carrying around in his mouth. I also am quick to let Will go upstairs to take a break if he tells me he is ready, and I suspect that makes a big difference. Who doesn’t need a break from a puppy every once in awhile?

Their play outside is still driven by Willie’s nerdy and rude herding behavior. He just can’t figure out why Hope doesn’t want to play “You be the sheep and I’ll smash into you every time you move forward!” Sort of like the big brother who wants to tie his little brother up to a tree so he can play pirate and his little brother plays the captured victim. But Hope is figuring out he can play as long as he has somewhere to hide, like the edges of the wading pool:

The next photo is Will and Hope in a ‘road training’ session. Hope is learning to automatically lie down every time I walk toward the road. He is not allowed to go within 30 yards of the road, and he is learning to lie down if I move over that invisible barrier myself. This does NOT mean that he wouldn’t go to the road if I was behind him (on the house side rather than the road side) and someone appeared on the road that he’d like to meet. That is a completely different concept, and one we’ll work on once this stage has progressed. This is his 3rd session, and he will now lie down to a visual signal and stay until I come back parallel to him. Once I do, he gets enthusiastic praise, belly rubs (he LOVES them) and sometimes a piece of the cheapest steak I can find in the market. I also think it helps greatly that Will knows the drill and he has big brother beside him doing the right thing. (It’s very controversial whether dogs can truly ‘imitate’ others, but I do believe that at minimum it helps in the sense that Will is not moving around causing a distraction, and I do wonder often if Will’s behavior doesn’t also directly influence Hope’s… Food for thought.)


  1. Frances says

    I look forward to hearing how you stop Hope chasing the cat – my two cats are much the same size as the dogs, and can stand up to them if need be, but the dogs do spend a lot of time trying to persuade the cats to play when they don’t want to. Good to hear Willy and Hope are getting on well, and Hope is learning where the limits lie – both in behaviour and geographically. My two youngsters played very little for a month or so after Sophy finished her most recent season – I suspect her hormones were signalling possible pups on board – but have just started romping together again. Happily, most of the time, but Poppy is now 12 month old, and not quite so deferential to her big sister as she used to be! I find myself saying all the things my mother used to say to us as children – “I don’t care who started it, I’m stopping it – now!”, “If you can’t play with that toy together nicely I shall put it away”, “That’s quite enough from both of you!”. There must be something in the tone – it works every time.

  2. Sharon says

    I love your blog and especially the updates as you are training a new pup and the beautiful photos of your farm…so very beautiful. thanks!

  3. says

    I, too, am interesting in seeing how you handle cat chasing. I had almost gotten Elka (my husky mix adult) to stop chasing my cat when I fell in love with my current foster and adopted him. Unfortunately he was very cat-friendly at first and now, too, chases. I’m working with them with both positive reinforcement and positive punishment techniques. It’s play-driven, but I’d love to stop it altogether. In fact, I wouldn’t object if the dogs never ran inside the house, but that’s a whole other story.

    I’m glad to see that Willie and Hope are getting along again! That was a rough post to read initially and it’s wonderful to hear the relationship is repaired. In my own situation I found that finding ways to give Elka an “out” from the puppy was critical to our success. Milton, the puppy, has now learned Elka’s limits though he’s entering adolescence, and that could bring a whole new set of issues. Our pups are close in age so it will be great for me to learn from your own experiences with this.

    And I’ve said before in the comments, it’s a great relief to me to see such a successful dog-advocate suffer some of the same issues I suffer here at home. It gives me hope that we can overcome them! It’s frustrating when every step forward seems to entail two steps back.

  4. Amy W. says

    I totally believe dogs can imitate one another. I see it too many times with my own dogs not to believe it doesn’t happen.

  5. Darin says

    Regarding the issue of whether dogs imitate each other, or learn from each other, our observation has been that they do.

    We have had as many as 4 goldens at a time. We started with two and they had many obedience classes, agility training, TDI, CGC, hand signals, etc. But, as we sometimes do, we got a little lazy with training and as additional dogs came in, it was harder to train with so many and we didn’t really do a good job with that. However, every dog that came in quickly learned the expected manners and routines.

    One of those routines was sit and wait until released to your bowl at feeding time. None of the dogs came in knowing sit, stay or free, we didn’t work at it and they all quickly figured out what they were supposed to do – we suspect because the original two were doing it. So, if the original two dogs didn’t “teach” the new dogs, I would still say they influenced the behavior. Of course, my training friends frequently remind me that training goldens is cheating so maybe they were all just really good dogs :)

    And, I think Hope is turning out to be cute as a button – just love his perked up little ears :)

  6. Beth says

    I think (and I know the “positive only” people would disagree) that a dog sometimes appreciates a little positive punishment or aversive, because it helps them clearly understand that “Oh, THAT’s the part where I’m meant to stop!” I had trouble with my female Corgi obsessively stalking the cat (Corgis are upright, loose-eyed herders, but the end result was the same— a dog that would get so mesmerized by the cat that it was impossible to break her attention; she would stare at the spot where the cat last disappeared for hours until the reappearance came). After a few weeks of trying all positive and/or blocking techniques, I broke down and squirted her in the muzzle with plain water from a plant-misting bottle. I only needed to do it twice, and you could almost see her shake off the obsession with the water as she gave me a “Huh? Oh, it’s you! Hi!” look. The second her concentration shifted from the cat to me, I said her name and when he ears pricked we had a big ol’ “Good girl! Good girl!” session and a march to the treat jar.

    Those two squirts allowed me to break her attention long enough for the positive training to take over, and I was able to train her to come off the cat on command in short order. By then moving on to praising her for voluntarily looking away from the cat, I was able to modify her behavior til now she will only play with the cat if the cat initiates. She does still do a few laps of the house if the cat disappears, though.

  7. XJ says

    You mentioned work you did to get Will not to bark and lunge at other dogs. Can I find those entries on this blog? I’m working with trainers on that same issue with my puppy (9 months) who lunges and barks at other dogs, but only when he’s on a leash.


  8. Susan says

    Although I don’t think relying on another dog to train a pup for you is a good idea, I have no doubt in my mind that a well trained, well socialized dog makes training a pup easier. Sometimes its the example (oh, Bubba doesn’t care about that scary thing, guess its no big deal), sometimes a familiar presence makes things easier (pups are SUPPOSED to be with their pack, distance stays for pups are a lot easier if a familiar dog is laying nearby), and sometimes just knowing that working with mama on those funny things that stick out of the ground earns treats and tugs, because when big brother does, he gets those things, makes those things have a higher value, then pup is more likely to interact with them.

    Of course, it can go backwards as well! I got Kyp! when I’d had Brodie about a year, and still had my older 2 dogs. Kyp! had been a stray, and then spent a few weeks in the shelter, and she was VERY good at figuring out how to get food (especially since I was trying to have her lose weight…) and figured out how to open the fridge. After she managed to get around my various mechanisms to prevent her entry, I made sure I crated her (yep, shoulda done that to start with!) but then Brodie got into the fridge! Don’t know if it was mimicry or social facilitation, or something else, but he obviously learned from her!

    Susan Mann, Brodie, Kyp!, and Arie

  9. Alexandra says

    I am wondering now if anyone has ever considered adapting Dr. Pepperberg’s model-rival method of teaching Alex the Parrot to dogs to see if they do in fact learn from watching each other.

  10. Mary says

    Luckily, as a puppy, my BC was fine with my cats. However he did want to stalk slowly moving cars. It was difficult to take a walk with him, as he wouldn’t take his eyes off the car. Fortunately we were able to give him plenty of exercise without having to take walks, so we just did the easy thing and stopped walking him. Perhaps because we didn’t give him the opportunity to “practice” the unwanted behavior, and perhaps because he got to take some herding lessons (where he could stalk the appropriate animal), he now seems to be fine with moving cars.

    To XJ: “Click to Calm” by Emma Parsons, and “Feisty Fido” by Trish (available on her website).

  11. says

    Great shots of Will and Hope!

    I don’t know, i think dogs learn from the other. I train both my GSD mix and Sibe together. One stays down while I work the other. One day I had and empty box and I had heard all about “fun with a box” tricks to do with your dog. Both of them knew “in” command from school, they would jump “into” these very large crates (so large, you could fit 4 dogs in them). anyway, i used the command on the sibe first, and she didn’t do it. obviously a cardboard box and a white large plastic crate are 2 different things to them. I couldn’t even get her to put a foot in. it was taking much too long. So i put her in the “down” and tried my GSD mix who i knew would try just about anything for a crumb of food or praise even. He’s always super motivated to learn and loves to “try” behaviors even if they are wrong, he’ll “try” anything. he put one foot in, marked and reward. then the 2nd foot, marked and reward. on the 3rd try he jumped in entirely, something in his brain just knows how to do his own shapping by now, he had figured out that 2 feet in got him a reward, that maybe his whole body would get a good reward, so he jumped in. he got a huge reward for jumping in lots of praise too. then i got the Sibe. she had been watching. and boom she went in. it took about a minute to train the GSD mix on the behavior and about another minute and a half (if you count the first time) to train the sibe who had watched him.

    after that i put the sibe in the box and worked on a “send out” (“go touch”) command that i’d been working on with my GSD mix. i figured, what the heck, let’s try getting him to touch the box with the sibe in it. what he did almost floored me. he went to the box and “touched” the sibe! i almost fell over. it was the funniest thing i’d ever seen. after that we played box games between the two for a long time and they had lots of fun one being in the box and the other going to touch it! Here’s a link to my post about it: http://www.wilddingo.com/2010/02/01/fun-with-a-box/

    I used to think it would be so hard to train 2 dogs (i had rescued them both w/in 3 months of eachother, both raw on training) and i had a really hard time at first because each wanted my attention and would fuss if i worked one but not the other, but i kept training sessions short, and one in a down and when they figured out that they took turns it became nothing to begin training them together and now it’s only been an asset to do this because i think they really learn from eachother.

  12. Lynn says

    I broke my working-bred Border collie puppy of chasing the cat by scooping him up and depositing him in the bathroom for twenty seconds at a time. It only took about three trips into purgatory before he decided that this was no fun, and abandoned the habit. And lest anyone think “oh, well, Border collies are smart, so they learn fast” – this is a “high drive” pup. But I did start this dissuasion within a week or two of the behavior’s having surfaced. Once they’ve become ingrained, unwanted behaviors can be incredibly difficult to break in Border collies.

  13. Melanie S says

    Why is it controversial whether or not dogs ‘imitate’ one another / learn from one another. Surely imitating (observing then copying) is the way dogs would learn many things if left to their own devices in a pack. Isn’t this how feral or wild dogs would learn certain behaviours such as how to stalk and hunt etc.?

    Really great to hear about your dog-cat interaction training, and as far as using postive punishment goes… I’ve been thinking that positive punishment (used appropriately!) makes a lot of sense to dogs because it seems that in their intraspecies interactions they use it with one another, yes? I understand that interspecies interactions bring new dimensions to which methods of communication or behaviour modification are appropriate to use but I would’ve thought that if one was able to work with what is already part of canine communication that it would be a good thing… so long as one was able to do it in the right frame of mind and with assertion rather than aggression.

  14. Melissa says

    I can only assume my 2 year old desexed male learnt to cock his leg from watching other dogs, because he did it for the first time ever a few weeks ago. Now he’s a leg-cocking machine, probably due to the fact the other half started rewarding him for it because he loves the idea of our boy dogs “manning up”. 😀 Only at the dog park and only on trees, though. It bemuses me that he hasn’t generalised it to trees at other places where we go less often. He never was much good at generalising.

    I swear that my younger boy Erik learnt to do a mean eye stalk from a BC mix friend at the dog park. He now does it exclusively to that dog and to our other dog strictly in play. This BC mix is a bit miffed that he’s now getting stalked back, and Erik always gets his subsequent charge in first these days. Erik is a cattle herding breed, so I guess he just needed to be shown how.

  15. Janet says

    My younger mini schnauzer learned a lot from the older one, even though he’s only about a year and a half older. He stays on the lawn and inside the yard even where there is no fencing and she just picked up on the routine that she’s not allowed outside the property. Of course I don’t totally trust either one on this but the older one has eyed a squirrel 5 feet away on forbidden territory and not broken and chased it!

  16. says

    Melanie’s points about dogs using positive punishment with each other, and humans using it with asertion, not agression, are well taken. This is something I think people who advocate only positive training methods forget. Dogs can’t use the clicker and treats when another dog is doing something that annoys them, they have calming signals, vocalizations, teath and their paws to use to stop the thing from happening.

    All species seem to use forms of punishment to teach behaviors to other members of their species.

    It’s teaching humans when and how to use it that seems to me to be the key.

    I absolutely believe dogs learn from each other. I’ve seen dogs mimic behaviors in guide dog class often. We call it “Monkey see…”

  17. Beth says

    One of the best ways to teach a new dog to do a fabulous recall is to have him sit/stay (with a helper to hold, if necessary) next to a dog who already has a full-speed recall. Go across a field, call both dogs, your rapid-recall dog will come running and “carry” the other dog with him. This is more a “groupthink” thing than true copying, though.

    However, I swear I saw a study where a dog would learn to press a lever for food by watching another dog do the behavior. Not only did the dogs learn just from watching the trained dogs, but they put their learning in context, too: If the first dog pushed the lever with is paw whilst holding an object in his mouth, the second dog was more likely to push the lever with his muzzle (assuming, presumably, that the first dog would have used his muzzle too, were it not occupied with the other object). If the first dog used his paw and his mouth was empty, the second dog was more likely to use his paw too (the assumption being that the second dog thought “there must be an important reason the dog used his paw”). Dogs, as we know, default to using their muzzle to manipulate objects.

    Ah, yes, here it is:


  18. Astrobuddy says

    I’ll chime in on dogs learning behaviors from each other. Back in the 90s I and my (then 6-year-old) sheltie spent a few months living with my brother and his 2 Borzois. After only a few weeks I realized that my pup was copying two of the Borzois’ behaviors–the sheltie was now lying down by first stretching out his front legs then dropping his butt, and was also barking furiously when the mailman put mail through the door slot–and this was a sheltie who NEVER barked at anyone at the door (I know, hard to believe, but true!). In fact, for the rest of his life, he retained these two behaviors!

  19. Jennifer Hamilton says

    What fun. So many new challenges and adventures. You make it all sound so exciting. It reminds me to keep the enthusiasm for training with my dogs as well.

    I strongly feel that training a new dog around a well trained dog(s) makes training go much faster. Whether a puppy is imitating, competing, learning…I don’t know…but something is going on to speed the training process. This is especially true for me with down stays…which can be hard for a puppy.

    The best example of “latent learning” was a dog that was being trained as a service dog. All of the training was going well, but the trainer tried for over a month to get the dog to retreive objects using a variety of positive techniques, with little to no success. One day, out of desperation, she asked to borrow my dog who is an object retreiver extraordinaire. She had both dogs in the same room and simply pointed and asked for objects on the floor. My dog brought each object to her and received a treat. After about 15 minutes, the other dog spontaneously started picking up objects and bringing them for a treat. It seemed a bit more like competition that imitation, but whatever it was, the dog was retreiving for the first time. Perhaps some of the earlier work layed a foundation, but this session watching my dog made a huge difference. After that single session, she never had to use my dog again and the service dog now reliably retreives objects and takes objects in and out of it’s owners back-back on the back of the wheelchair.

  20. Veronique Vanderbeke says

    Very interesting topic! I have two corgis and three cats and especially my male loves to chase the cats (one in particular). He’ll even poke her with his nose and I’ve seen him bring his teeth towards her, though he has never actually bit a cat. I have tried to click & treat him when he looks at that particular cat, but he immediately makes it into a game of running over to her, poking her with his nose and then looking expectantly at me with one of those big corgi-smiles “aren’t I a good boy?!” This kind of training always escalates into the poking-game, it doesn’t matter that I only click him when he ignores her (and yes, he is very clicker-savvy). A “leave it” only works if I time it very precisely (before he gets into the chase) and is one if those things that don’t change the behavior if I’m not around. Maybe I should try a “sit” too. Or the toy.

    About dogs immitating, I have one clear example of my girl immitating her big brother. My boy has a “down” from a sit and another down command (the Dutch “neer”) for a down from a stand, so he will down very fast on the agility table. When I got my girl, I only bothered teaching her the “neer” command for the down from a stand. I have never ever used the regular “down” command on her, she doesn’t know what it is.
    At the end of one agility class one of my fellow students had some VERY good red meat treats and she was sharing it with Billy, my male corgi, asking for a down with the universal “down”. Billy was very responsive, downing as if his life depended on it. Then the student turned to my girl Blaze and said “down”. Blaze had been watching Billy down with big jealous eyes, wanting in on the food party and when she heard the “down” command, she immediately lied down, no hesitation. I didn’t even have the time to remind my friend that I used “neer” for little Blaze!

  21. Frances says

    Very interesting discussion on whether dogs learn by watching other dogs. I don’t think there can be any doubt that they learn social skills by watching as well as experiencing, and can come to rely on a more experienced dog to tell them how to behave – surely this is why we are advised to ensure that if we have two dogs both get socialisation individually, so that both have confidence when alone. Many rescue advertisements in the UK recommend that a dog be homed with another, confident dog that will be able to “teach them how to be a dog” – particularly when homes are sought for ex-puppy farm dogs or nervous dogs. As I recall, the research results were unable to establish that dogs could learn a specific skill by watching another dog perform. Interesting that so many of the examples given of learning by imitation are of “staying safe” behaviours – jumping into a box being an example of the exceptions, of course – unless the box was seen as potentially risky be the first dog. As ever, one wonders if the original researchers offered their dogs a sufficiently powerful reward to motivate learning.

  22. em says

    I guess I’ll add to the deluge. I too, have seen lots of imitative/ peer pressure behavior in the dogs at the park-not always for the good. My non-begging dane picked up the “greeting mooch” by watching his dog buddies, much to my frustration-Some people, no matter what you say, love to see the dogs come running to them-so, whenever the dogs trot over and sniff at their pockets, they give out treats. GAH! None of the dogs at the park are too insistent or obnoxious about it, but it drives me crazy. Otis stood aside at first and watched the feeding frenzy, then figured it out, then began soliciting handouts for himself. He only does it at the park, but it is almost impossible to break a habit that other humans are determined to reinforce.

    On a brighter note, Otis overcame a pretty serious fear of water by watching his dog friends. Initially, he’d avoid puddles with horror, but after a few weeks of watching from the bank while his buddies played in the water he began to relent. He is still very careful not to put himself in a position where he might have to swim, so in unfamiliar waters he studiously observes the other dogs-if they can stand on the bottom, he will wade out as far as they are in order to cool off, get a drink, chase a stick, chase and wrestle with his friends, etc. But if they’re swimming, he won’t go near them (even in the case of much smaller dogs-as a great dane, Otis can wade out quite a bit further than a beagle mix, but if that dog is swimming, he doesn’t dare make the attempt. If he’s alone, he’s very, very careful, not usually going in over his knees unless it is a place that he knows well.

  23. says

    My dogs definitely learn from each other, especially what to bark at and how close to stay to the humans when on an off-leash hike. I like to imagine that the series of dogs I’ve had lives on this way. Gustav learned it from Dottie, who learned it from Morgan, who learned it from Rummy, even though I’ve only had two at a time.

    I’m grateful you mentioned positive punishment! I was feeling like I had a dirty secret, with my penny in a can trick to interrupt boredom barking (my dog would bark at nothing out the window–I know it was nothing because if it was something my other dog would bark too. Then she’d run over to me and sit, wagging her tail and licking her lips, thinking how effectively she’s turned me into a treat vending machine. I got fed up and used the can twice, and now just have to lift it up and she’ll stop) It’s just so effective in a way that I couldn’t replicate through positive reinforcement

  24. Liz F. says

    On punishment:

    I will add to the group who use mild punishment. In my case, I believe I’m using negative punishment to discourage one dog of a two dog household from barking relentlessly at a neighbor dog.

    In the winter when the windows are shut, the stimuli of the neighbor dog’s jingling tags and excited barks are mild enough where I can modify my dog’s barking reaction with positive reinforcement. But when it’s summertime and the windows must be open, the noise is too much for my guy. He’ll get into a barking trance. No positive reinforcement gets through.

    So what I have been doing is create something to be taken away. I’ll either feed my non-barking dog a meal, or start to take the non-barking dog on a walk. The barker must wait while the non-barker gets rewarded.

    The barker sees either of these situation taking place and seems puzzled as to why he is being left out of the fun. Snaps him back into offering pleasant behaviors or just being quiet.

    I have only been doing this for a couple months last summer and this summer, but it seems to be lessening his urge to bark out the window ’til the neighbor dog goes away. Perhaps this speaks to both the benefit of mild punishment and to the subject of whether dogs can imitate one another.

    I see my barker’s wheels spinning as he watches my non-barker, seemingly wondering, “How can I get the goods, just like her?”

  25. says

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy all your books and this website. I reviewed and recommended your book on my website:


    The site is dedicated to dogs that have been unfairly declared dangerous. As you will see from the site, a big problem is dogs getting out by accident and chasing and killing outside cats on their owner’s property. In Broward County, Florida, that is an offense that results in euthanasia. I’d like to hear your thoughts.


  26. says

    I forgot to mention the funniest example of imitating I’ve seen: my dog Dottie does these funny gazelle leaps in the air the last few steps before she fetches something, I don’t know why. My mom and dad’s dog, a golden doodle, started doing this as well after watching Dottie but to a much less graceful effect. There was no reinforcement involved, just purely watching and imitating. Now she does it on her own, even when Dottie’s not around.

  27. Laura Atwood says

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance of teaching my dogs about roads. Unfortunately, where we live, we only have the dirt roads to walk on – so this means that they think roads are a good thing. I’ve started asking them to down and stay before we step out into the road in the hopes that they will learn they can only go into the road with my permission. My Border Collie is picking this up easily – he sits (OK, not a “down” but close enough) automatically when we get to the end of the driveway and waits for my permission to move forward. My Rottie and Chow are another story – still a bit oblivious. I also take each one of them out on long lines and let them roam the property – asking them to down stay as they get near the road. Hopefully this will work at a time when I need it to!

  28. says

    I know for a fact that my dog at least can learn from other dogs! She came to me at seven months with no socialization with people or dogs, having been kept with the rest of her litter inside a kitchen for her entire life that far. I taught her that water was fun and she learned to swim by herself, but she learned to launch herself into the water by watching one of her doggie buddies, a labradoodle, cannonball in after a ball. Before that, she would delicately dip a paw in, and then sliiiiide into the water. After watching Farley a few times, she tried it and now they launch in an identical fashion. It’s hilarious.

  29. Anna says

    I have two young corgis and they play with each other exactly like Will and Hope, in the house wrestling and chasing around but outside is another story. Not being into hearding myself I didn’t think about what Rudy was doing as herding I just knew he did not seem to want Penny to run at all and she spends alot of time cowering under bushes, next to the fence or by the wall and it just doesn’t seem fair… Rudy can and does run all over the yard but Penny is allowed to move only if he says so. One large problem is when she cowers by me as Rudy hits us so hard I almost go down myself. It is getting somewhat better now that Penny is older (10 months tomorrow) because for one thing she can out run Rudy and for another she has found if she runs literally right besid him he can’t get her (probably another herding instinct). Rudy also likes to grab her ruff and throw her to the ground but there again now that she is older and stronger he has quite a bit more work to bring her down and sometimes doesn’t succeed… he has helped to create a quick agile dog who just may do wonders in agility once we get her started.. Is there a problem about this type of outside play that I should work on stopping or just let things progress?

  30. trisha says

    I’ll write my next post on teaching dogs not to chase cats or anything else that runs away (cars included) and will definitely write one in the future about imitation. As is clear from so many good comments, it’s a fascinating topic . . .

    One comment to Laura, and all who are interested in road training): I never consider a dog through the final phase of training (and no matter how reliable they are I am still super vigilant) until they’ve learned not to go to the road even if you are behind them, paying no attention, or even completely out of sight. I think asking a dog to stop at road’s edge when you go to walk on the road together is a good first step (same as dogs in suburbs) but most dogs don’t generalize “stop at road side when walking side by side with owner” to “stop at roadside when owner not around and squirrel on other side.” I’ll go over how I set that up in the next post…

  31. Joann says

    You mentioned “Sushi is outside a lot.” Do you keep your cat outdoors at times during the day or let the cat outside? Is the cat on a leash or tie-out? I’ve heard nothing but bad things about letting cats outside and am wondering what protective measures you take for your cat to be outside.

  32. Res says

    You said: “I also think it helps greatly that Will knows the drill and he has big brother beside him doing the right thing. (It

  33. Kathy says

    Thanks for your lovely blog. I started reading it from the beginning about a month ago and have reached this point. I also have seen a dog learn from another. My friend’s Malinois bitch Dee Dee is the object of my Samoyed dog Jazz’s undying affection. We were sitting around waiting our turn at agility training and Dee Dee was demonstrating “Speak.” She did the bark and got a treat a few times. Jazz watched intently because he always watches Dee Dee! He then shoved himself in front of me, sat down and did one bark. At no time have I ever tried to make him bark, most of his life I was trying to keep him quiet! He has done the “Speak” trick ever since. I am not sure whether he was trying to get the treat or impress Dee Dee, but he certainly learned the trick by watching her. There is no other explanation.

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