Valley Taming

July 13, 2015


For the rest of the day Morgan, Valley and I hung out at camp. We relaxed and read, letting Valley adjust to her new environment. On her pink leash, which we extended by tying a rope to the handle end, she had plenty of room to move between sun and shade, near us or far from us. When she approached we’d say her name, pet her, give her a small treat. By mid-afternoon, she responded to her new name, by looking up or approaching.DSC_0122.JPGWhile Morgan cooked, I worked on teaching her to sit. Morgan explained that because dogs were more used to reading body language, it would be easier to train her if I had a gesture for each command. So when I said the word sit, I pointed at the ground, then pushed gently on Valley’s butt until she sat. I praised her enthusiastically, and we were rapidly on on our way to developing a language we shared. Within the first 10 minutes she had the general concept of sit! I sat down for a break, and was delighted when Valley approached me and looked up expectantly. “Valley, sit!” I said in a deep, firm voice, and pointing at the ground. She sat. “Good dog, good dog!” I gave her a treat. She was so eager to learn and eager to please that training her was a joy. She wanted to assimilate into our pack and do whatever it took to please her new alpha.DSC_0106.JPGAfter dinner, Morgan worked with her, reinforcing the concepts of sit and started working on down. For down, we agreed to use the gesture of pulling our hand down, like drawing a line in the air from her toward the ground.  I joined them and we took Valley off the leash and worked on “come.” We decided that patting our thigh was a perfect gesture. It could be loud if she was far away, or soft if she was near by and we were moving quietly. Unlike whistling, I could always pat my thigh reliably, even if my lips were dry. We worked for a while until she clearly had the concept, going between me when I called her and Morgan when he called her. At some point, one of us got out her stuffed pumpkin toy, and we tossed it between us, calling “Valley, come” and patting our thigh. The training session became a game of keep away! It reinforced the word we had just taught her, and made it so she didn’t need a treat each time, just playing with us and the pumpkin was a treat.DSC_0066.JPGWhen I needed to use the outhouse, I walked away from Valley for the first time, and she nonchalantly followed. But when Morgan called her back, She didn’t listen. She wanted to come with me. When she got to me I snapped, “Valley, no!” And gently rolled her onto her back. She tucked her tail between her legs and looked apologetically up at me. Morgan called her again and patted his thigh. She went to him, and got her treat. Morgan hooked her to her leash, and she stood nervously at the end of it, as close as she could get to me. Whimpering slightly as I disappeared. When I came back, she was sitting, and Morgan had a hand on her leash, ready to release her when I called. “Valley, come,” patting my thigh. She charged toward me and bounced in excitement when she reached me and I fed her a treat from my pocket. Morgan and I beamed at each other. As we sat around talking in the evening (though not around a campfire because of the burn ban), we both marveled at how quickly and easily she was learning. My dog was a genius. I was convinced. I glowed with delight, I had definitely found the perfect dog.DSC_0067

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