The training of Opie (Oprah)

Following on from my postings elsewhere about our new adoption, the little Lab cross girl who is almost 13 years old.

She is hard of hearing, though not deaf, and so can hear the low pitch end of the whistle (Jules reacts to the high pitch, useful in being able to distinguish between them) and glances at me for my upright arm palm facing signal to return. She does this every time now, and at her version of a gallop, a rocking back and forward movement between front and back legs, just like her even older predecessor, Tosca, did.
She then sits before me for a treat.

At meal times she sits and waits while her bowl is placed until I give the sign to eat, ‘bon appetit’, just as Jules has to perfection. She still needs a short lead to tether her to Fran’s chair to avoid her excitement on seeing Jules get his first (I especially wanted her to watch him and learn). They eat 2 metres apart.

After several days of walking them separately on the 33 metre line, she progressed to dragging it without me holding the other end then to walking and dragging the short lead. Also not held. Yesterday for the first time I walked them together, him on the long and her on the short. Today on the way back from the shops we went to the wide open space of the river field. Dragging the short lead again she was never more than 20 metres away and came back to me when signalled. Back at the car she sat and waited while I reloaded Jules and flaked his long line away (coiling tangles, flaking unravels, the easier to run it out the next time) and then, on my signal, leapt back into the car and laid down.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? :joy:


Teach me to show off. The wheels fell off the wagon yesterday evening at mealtime. Not Opie’s fault but Jules, and mine.

Opie stood back, without the tether to Fran’s chair, while I fed Jules. Then with the prepared bowl for Opie I approached the place where she eats and she sat obediently, waited while I placed it but, before I could say the magic words, Jules, a fast eater who had finished, rushed towards her bowl. I called him off in my deepest and most fierce tone but obviously loud enough for Opie to hear and it scared the daylights out of her.

So, I had to send Jules out of the room while she ate and took him out to give him, after the usual ritual of ‘assis’, ‘stay’ and ‘go’ (to the front terrasse) then sit for his crunchy treat. A piece of pain grille when there isn’t a stale, hard, knob end of bread available, designed to clean their teeth.

I went back for another and waited while Opie finished (she is a very slow eater) and then led her out for the same performance. Trouble was that Jules was still lurking and again I had to resort to ‘the voice’. He desisted, of course as he always does knowing my tone, but once again, Opie took fright and ran back inside. She refused to come out again for her treat.

I was really angry and refused to look at Jules for the rest of the evening. He stood for very many minutes looking at me as I sat on our shared settee, waiting for the invitation to come up alongside. It was all I could do to avoid his gaze, he eventually climbed up after about half an hour.

I will have to have a re-think this evening. Controlling each dog individually is easy, but both at the same time with their differing temperaments, is more of a challenge. :thinking:

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Used to happen with our Airedale - great big girl that she was. If I reprimanded Bertie (rescue mutt) then she would come and ask forgiveness, paw raised, oozing anxiety. Then I felt awful. I learnt to be very very careful about reprimanding Bertie in her hearing - not an ideal solution for you I know.

That was the feeling, it really got me down. Didn’t help that I am limping from a sore hip for 2 minutes every time I get up from a chair, and at the moment am going through an occasional problem with my left heel. At one point as I hobbled into the kitchen with a face like thunder, Fran, who hardly ever says anything I can understand, piped up ‘is there something wrong?’ Aaaaarrrrgh!!! :rofl:


Just a thought - could you get Jules to recognise a face of thunder and a wagged finger (or something like that) and not use the voice of thunder? Or given that Opie is fairly deaf could you do the “Voice of Thunder” at the same time but in a whisper?

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Can’t they just be I different rooms whilst they eat or have I missed something?

You’re assuming that I know what I am doing. :roll_eyes: :rofl:

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Good point. That’s what we did, Airedale gobbled (even with one of these plates designed to slow down a dog’s eating) and then would “advance” on the mutt who eats more slowly. Airedale got snarled at. So she was kept indoors while he had his on the veranda. Now she’s gone, he gets his pick of places to eat.

That’s a thought for Jules - has he got one of these dishes that slows him down - they do work up to a point. :slight_smile:

Sorry, but yes, you have missed something. I train all my dogs to eat together in harmony and what I have described above is all part of the training period. I think I did mention that I wanted Opie to see Jules’ behaviour as he eats. He does wait patiently at the sit when the bowl goes down and he watches me intently till he gets the go ahead. I have even tested him by leaving him sitting with the food in front of him while I leave the room and out of sight. He does look over his shoulder to see where I am but makes no move till I give the command, even from the other room, or he waits till I return to do so.

Even after only a week Opie had got to the stage where she almost waited when the food was down, and today I am confident she will, but for once I will put Jules in the other room, not to eat, he will do that after she has started, in close proximity. It goes a little against the grain to feed him 2nd, I normally either make the already installed dog eat first or the one who is most obviously dominent. In this case it is him on both counts, but only temporary for a day or so. :grinning:

Sorry @SuePJ ,

That’s a thought for Jules - has he got one of these dishes that slows him down - they do work up to a point.

I forgot to say, no I don’t use those, have never found the need, when I say he is fast I mean he is as fast as most dogs, but that is certainly faster than Opie.


We had one of those for the greedy ridgeback but the puppy ate it.

I’d put money on him having told her to do so….


The puppy ate it? Did it come out the other end?
Or are those dishes silicone, so they squash anyway?

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Worked like a dream. prepared both bowls in advance, told Jules to wait in the other room, he wasn’t happy about it but was no trouble, and then Opie sat to await the command as if she had been doing it all her life. Put Jules’ bowl down, let him back in but he stopped short to sit and wait, got the command and then advanced to eat.

Same with the procedure out of the front door, one by one, no trouble but I did wait with Opie to make sure Jules did not re-appear this time. I always shut the shutters and doors then but leave the light on to make sure that they have to walk around the house to the open back door and have a pee on the way, but after the first couple of days no accidents from Opie, and never from Jules, unless he is ill.

Very pleased, I’ll do the same tomorrow and maybe the next day before seeing if I can do the whole thing with them both in the room from the start. :smiley:


Just chewed enough of it to make sure the slow feeding element was no longer functional!


Almost complete success last night. Almost because of a silly mistake I made which could have upset the applecart, but thankfully, didn’t.

I got the 2 bowls ready with the meat (sardines) and took them to the croquettes chest. Put Jules’ to one side out of reach and topped up Opie’s from the chest. She sat without prompting, eyes on me, and then moved forward to eat on my signal (hand in her case rather than spoken as with Jules). Not filling Jules’ at the same time was my mistake so that he could then sit and await his command in the normal manner. As it was I had to reach over the eating Opie to reach the croquette chest. This delay caused Jules to leap about in anticipation and frustration and I had to do the action of filling while telling him, as softly as possible so that Opie wasn’t spooked by my voice or him accidentally touching her, to desist.

In the event it all worked fine, and so did the subsequent follow up on the terrasse afterwards, so I think I have got it cracked. Just as long as I remember to do all the preparation before anything else. :joy:


A video moment! Well done on the logistics plan. A happy furry family is the greatest joy.


Yes, indeed it is. :smiley:

Now for sorting out the walking arrangements. They have been on the same one for several days now but it is still a struggle to start with. This is because Opie, who is still on the short lead through the initial forest section because she does have a tendency to wander into one or two of the side tracks, is much slower than Jules on his 33 metre and who races through at very high speed. When he goes straight on to the field beyond it is no problem, but sometimes he too picks up a side scent and goes in and out of the trees. Usually this is no problem as I let it go and pick it up again further on, unless it jams for some reason, then I have to backtrack to free it. This means that Opie has to back track with me which is not a good idea from the point of view of getting her to learn the direct route as the default one.

Eventually, into the field, all good, Jules 20 odd metres away to the side investigating and Opie dragging the now loose short lead happily plodding up the hill not far from me. When we got through the pinch point into the top field, as before she continued straight on up while I turned right to border the forest to the entry point into it for the descent. I watched her closely and, when she was about 25 metres away I brought the low pitch whistle to my lips to get her attention. No need, at that point she looked up and around, immediately saw me and galloped back before I could even give the deaf dog sign to do so. :joy:

She then sat before me as I whistled Jules (high pitch) and gave them both a treat before heading down through the trees towards home again. I let Jules’ line speed through my gloved hand till I caught it at the knot 5 metres from the end but didn’t need to bother about Opie. She does not follow me precisely but instead takes the route which we have done several times now but some distance away to the side. Near the bottom where we turn left to pick up the track back to the garden I start intoning ‘home Jules, home’ and ‘home Opie, home’ and we all land back inside the gate alongside the pond. I used to unclip and treat Jules at that point but instead now, because I am worried at Opie’s insistance on walking close to the edge above the water, I fasten the gate quickly and hurry them both through the next one at the end of the pond before doing so.

I am thinking that it might be better for a few more days to take them individually again so that I can be sure that Opie can find her way through the initial forest track without having to be held. A hand signal for a hard of hearing dog is not much use if the dog is behind a couple of trees. Then, when I am sure, she can be totally free from start to finish just as all the other dozen or so dogs before her have been. Apart from the nose-down, ear-blocked Jules of course. :roll_eyes:

Anyway, I took my video camera with me today and will start to process the results shortly. At least 90 % of it will be useless as it dangles on my chest (I need both hands most of the time at the moment for the dogs) and bounces around. But I might get some useful short clips or at least some snapshots out of it. If I do you will be the first to see them. :grinning:


Excellent! Because I had my Agnes and Maud, sisters, from 10 weeks old, I never managed to achieve recall.

But, I find that a ziplock bag with sausage in my pocket works a treat, literally :sweat_smile:. Just rustling my pocket works within 20 metres or so. Further away may require a waving bag.

I look forward to seeing your video :slightly_smiling_face:

Maybe you wouldn’t, it is very long and boring, but I have taken 15 snapshots from it and thought to splice them together as stills on YT. I could, of course, severely edit the video and then put it there, but that will take much longer. I’ll ponder a while. But it is only 45 minutes till I ‘ponder’ for real, and I have missed the last 2 days so we’ll see. :thinking: :smiley:

Snapshots are good. Whatever is easy for you. It’s the doggies tails/tales :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

OK then, each of the pictures have captions but suffice to say that we start off walking up the field with Jules way off in the background, then through the ‘pinch point’ where first Jules then I go right as Opie continues.
I look at her and she sees me at the same time and before I can whistle or gesture she gallops back to me. Then they are together near the re-entry to the forest after Jules rushes back at great speed and they both sit for treats and I had a lot of trouble getting them in the same frame because Opie kept edging towards me as I moved back to to do so.
Then, despite the appearance to the contrary a downhill shot of Opie heading on her own track through the forest where we all come together at the pond. Finally a quick look at the pond level, now only about 3 inches below max, and then Opie on her bed, still with her lead, having found her own way back inside the house.
At frequent points if you look closely you can see the blue 33 metre line attached to Jules who is often out of shot way ahead.