Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dog in training

Recently I communicated with blogger friend, Sandra that I had verbally chastised my dog, Skabenga for being over exuberant.  This outburst of mine had been coming for quite a while. Over the months since Grant's death, although I take Skabby out for his daily walk and pay him enough attention, this is the first time in his life that the humans (one of whom he no longer sees around) leave him home alone for most of the day. 

While we lived on the farm, we were both there and I took Skabenga and Eddie for walks along the servitude, down to the river and into the veld between three and four times a day. 

When we moved to Bergview, I'd be up at 4am to take the dogs into the grasslands beyond our house and they'd have another long walk in the afternoon when I returned from work. Meanwhile, Grant had started building our cottage and in no time at all, Skabenga became the darling of all the builders. 

Here I must tell a story: Thokozani, Estelle and Steve's gardener  spent time at the building site with Grant; he had  formed a special bond with Skabenga. Of course,that this  familiarity was seen by the other workers, Thokozani proudly  showed the builders Skabenga's party trick: he sits and shakes [hands].  From that day on, every single morning, Skabenga would sit at the top of the driveway while the workers pushed and shoved each other for a turn at shaking hands with the him!  Skabenga became very used to constant attention and love while we live on the estate. 

When we moved to Highlands and into Diddly Squat, Grant, Steve and Thokozani erected large wire enclosure for Skabenga to run around in during the day. At night he slept in the shack with us;  many of you may remember how I posted about several walks we took during the night by the light of a headlamp. He had his normal early morning walk (my many photos of the mountain peaks attest to these walks) and again in the afternoon when we returned home from work. In between, Estelle and Steve who would go and pat him and give him a tidbit. Thokozani, of course, cleaned his enclosure and Estelle tells me he spent ages playing with the dog. Several animal loving guests in Steve and Estelle's other two holiday units,  came to the shop and asked if they could take him for a walk. 

Once again,  Skabenga had lots of attention, love and stimulation. 

Then early in December last year, I moved here to, Solferino, the dairy farm. Beautiful and peaceful with a large garden for Skabenga and the cats and many dogs on either side of my house for him to bark at! 


Mama was out from 7.30 until 4.15 every day and he felt this.

When I arrived home from work, Skabby jumped up and down at the gate, barking furiously . When I opened the gate, he'd be so excited to see me, he almost knocked me over in his dash outside. Once I got into the house, I'd feverishly rush to get my walking shoes on and the whistle around my neck. All the while, Skabenga would be yelping and panting around me getting under my feet in the bedroom. Eventually we'd race out of the gate again and up the road on our afternoon walk. 

Once we got home, I'd quickly select a meaty bone and give it to the dog who generally snatched it from me. He'd go off and gnaw it and within no time at all,  he'd be back in the kitchen where I was preparing dinner. And he'd sit and beg. And what did I do?  I tossed bits of food (mainly vegetables, because I'm a vegetarian) over my shoulder to him.

Which brings me to the point I mentioned in the first sentence of this- now-long-post! 

One evening as I sat down to eat my dinner, in a flash, Skabenga was at my side, staring into my face and drooling. I was totally fed-up and in a loud voice told him not to look at me. I went on to say how I 'd had it with him staring at me constantly while I eat and tripping me up when I tried to do things (can you believe this?) His ears drooped, he lowered his eyes, and slowly sank down onto his side. Where he lay for the duration of my meal. 

And this is what I told Sandra (MadSnappper)  who replied to my mail that it's no use bellowing at a dog because they don't know why you are shouting. I once read that when we humans do this, dogs think we are barking at them! Anyway, Sandra was very kind and reminded me that it was normal to feel frustrated with the situation because I'm doing everything myself now. Also by feeling that I was neglecting Skabenga, I over - compensated by feeding him tidbits. Apart from causing him to become overweight, like with a human child, heaping treats on the dog,  does nothing to improve the behavior.  

Sandra sent me several links on dog-training here,   
and the one thing that jumped out at me was that animals respond incredibly well to commands followed by a reward.  

That night I took Skabenga's bone out onto the veranda  where he was leaping up and down,  barking furiously. I held the bone behind my back and told him quietly but firmly to "Sit". This he did immediately because he knows he's going to get a treat. But then I went down onto my one knee, looked him in the eye, and said " D O W N" making a downward movement with my free hand.  He took step forward. I repeated the word: Down and moved my hand down again. The third time, you could see a light bulb flashing above his head. He slowly sank onto his tummy with his fore-paws stretched out in front of him. 

I rose to my feet which caused the dog to jump up and take another step forward. So I started all over again with the action and command. I had to repeat this three times until Skabenga thought it worth his while to obey (and he might just get that bone from this daft woman!)  I placed the bone about 2 ft from his toes. He started to get up but as I raised my finger and said DOWN, he sank down again. 

Finally, I lifted the bone, stood nearer to him and commanded him to "Sit" again. He did and I held the bone above his nose and told him to take it gently. 

Which he did. 

And then he walked around and around the garden watching me from the corner of his eye in case I tried any more tricks! 
    I need to get away from this mama who may start all over again teaching me tricks!

I didn't only use this discipline that once to take photos and post about it. I constantly reinforce it and the other commands with my sweet dog, Skabenga every time we interact.

When I arrive home now, I open the gate before I even take my stuff out of the car. I tell him to "Sit" and while I stroke his head, I tell him he's a good boy and how glad I am to see him. Then he dashes off towards my car and runs around sniffing at things in the yard while I unpack. He's still boisterous at times, but just one word of command and he calms down significantly.

I hope most of you have arrived at this part of the post. I thought it important to write about my recent experiences and also the success of following **Sandra's** advice and what I learned from Cesar's (Dog whisperer) link. I hope this encourages other dog owners who, like me, might have had a change in their circumstances and which has adversely affected their relationship with their pets. 

I'm linking to Our World Tuesday here


** Thank you, dear Sandra, for your hints, the links and encouragement. Skabenga sends a wagging tail to you, too


  1. Congratulations. This will change both your lives for the better.

  2. Lovely post Jo. Dogs respond incredibly well to their masters when properly trained. As you know Cesar always finds an issue with the owners which have made the dogs the way they are and in need of training! In Skabby's case he has had to get used to so many changes, as have you. It's only natural it would bring a change in behaviors. I'm so glad Sandra and the dog whisperer have helped you get back on good footing with your precious dog companion

  3. i already knew this and i am still sitting here with tears of joy running down my face. you know i love Skabenga like i had met him. i have watched him grow up with you and he touches my heart and so does this post. prayers and hugs and love coming through the computer to the 2 of you and the sweet kitties to.... love you Jo

  4. Yes I was able to sit till the end! Huh, that was really a handful, haha. But congratulations! And thanks for your kind words about my post, appreciate it.

  5. Love your doggie and can relate to it ~ Skebanga is a sweet doggie as is mine and when I get impatient and yell at her I feel terrible ~ so I try to avoid that ~ but it is like you say ~ am alone with the dog ~ so can be frustrating for all ~ thanks for the link ~

    Happy Days,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  6. It sounds like you're on the right track.

  7. I am so happy to read this! Skabenga is very lucky to have such a thoughtful human to take care of him.

  8. Oh, Jo, how hard it must be for you without Grant. It's no wonder you lost your temper with an over-exuberant dog, and then felt guilty about it. I wish I could hug you, and Skabenga, but you first!
    I'm sure you remember me writing about Lindy, our beautiful Golden Retriever. She was such a good, sweet dog, and now Bonnie, our bouncy little terrier-mix is subconsciously compared with Lindy, so we are hoping to take her first to obedience training and then, probably, to agility training, to wear some of her energy out of her. She surprised us with one trait...she loves to sit with the elderly. She is very intuitive and knows when someone is hurt or sad, so we think that, with training, she might be a very good hospital visitor.
    Time will tell.
    But in the meantime, my dear friend, go easy on yourself, and train Skabenga to do what YOU want him to do. He'll catch on.
    Lots of hugs from here,

  9. Animals feel our emotions, that's for sure. - Margy

  10. Hello, Skabenga loves you and really wants to please you! I am glad Sandra could help you and now Skabenga is getting more training and will now behave when you arrive home. Pretty photos of Skabenga,he is a handsome dog. Have a happy day!

  11. He'll love you even more for setting those boundaries. Hang in there. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. (Even us.)

  12. A wonderful story about your life with Skabenga. I'm really glad that you both could work on your expectations and his and came to what works for you both. I love dogs and have had a few when we lived in Alaska. I admit we always spoiled them and they knew it but they are also quick learners and want to please their people. Thanks for sharing your story Jo, it could help someone who reads this blog, you never know.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo