Doesn’t time fly???

It’s hard to believe that its nearly a year since a little bundle of fluff landed on my doorstep! (He came in Nov at 8 weeks old).   He’s 1 years old today!!

Baby JJ (8 weeks old)

Baby JJ (8 weeks old)

.. now 1 years old!

.. now 1 years old!

In his first year he has learnt from the puppy basics such as toileting and the regular commands such as sit, down, stay to concept words such as which, where and is able to follow sentences/requests with several commands strung together.  An example of one of more complex jobs would be coming in from walks,  particuarly where we have taken Inca’s trailer with us.

First he’s pushing open the door,  closing it behind us,  bringing my chair to me,  going into the spare room to get ready to help me pull the trailer back in,  helping me remove my coat,  he’s even helped Inca take hers off!!

open door

open door

.. wait for mum to come in

.. wait for mum to come in

close door

close door

helping to pull Inca’s trailer into room

.. unzipping coat

he even helps Inca pull her coat off!!

he even helps Inca pull her coat off!!

He’s also been helping me undress everynight for the last month or so and seems to have grasped the concept of coming to tell me when he hears something.  I was going to keep it just minicom ringing and smoke alarm, but he has developed a very useful one himself without any specific training!  Several times whilst on the scooter he has nudged my foot usually its when we’re on a farm track and there was only us there when I asked him “What?” he looks behind us and EVERY time so far there has been a car behind us waiting to pass! I never specifically taught him this one but he gets very high value treats for this one as its a very useful one!

He does also sometimes still tell me things I don’t really need to know like a cat in the neighbours garden or came to get me yesterday evening as an helicopter was flying over low, so we still have to work on filtering which sounds I really need to know about.  He does make me laugh.. he prodded me in bed once and there was a distinct smell that someone had ‘let one go’ (it wasn’t me!)..  ‘who did that? ‘ I asked him,  he turned and looked at Inca sleeping!  😀

It’s made a huge difference having him from so young and him growing up in this situation as he has just learned everything as a daily routine.  It is ‘normal’ for him to know both sign and my speech.  I want him to learn both.. after all if I fell and broke my arm I couldn’t sign to him and on days when my speech is bad getting words out is difficult its really handy if he knows both.  A whistle isn’t always helpful as you need co-ordination in your throat muscles to whistle and strength to get out any volume! .. sometimes I can get a sound out of a whistle but he also knows to recall to scooter or powerchair horn.

My only difficulty is as I don’t get alot of visitors he doesn’t always respond to other people’s voices if they tell him ‘sit’ etc.  I know my voice is different when I can get speech out,  sometimes I can get words out easy enough to start with but they aren’t always clear and the more tired my throat muscles get,  the harder it gets for me to physically get each word out… other days just start like that and I struggle to call their names… but he’s getting so he can ‘read me’ well now even when I’m struggling to get words out or my arms are shaky/jerky so signs are not consistent. It’s gone beyond me just been his mummy or teacher,  looking after him.. we’re starting to work as a team! GO TEAM ASTRA!!!   😀

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JJ’s Training Update – Learning Language

photoDogs do not naturally use language to communicate within their own species,  they rely on body language. So teaching signs are helpful for some dogs and less confusing than words,  if they have difficulty separating when you are speaking in general or speaking to them to give them a command.  But to teach a dog to do more advanced stuff they need a level of greater understanding of our language than the basic commands of sit,  stay,  heel,  down etc.

The first command needed to be ‘look’ (at me),  I can’t always get words out well and he’d need to rely on working out what I was trying to sign… before he could work out what I was trying to sign/say he needed to understand what the words meant, so began the quest to teach him to associate a certain sound/sign with an action.

His most complex work was going to be following directions to get something for me.. either something I dropped that had rolled under a table or find my mobile in an emergency when I’d fallen over so he needed to learn vocabulary such as.. on,  in,  under,  behind,  go round,  look,  there (pointing),  which,  where is it?.. names of rooms.. so I had to have a think and create some games specifically to teach all the language he was going to need.

I start with simple single words.. IN.. JJ is IN the toybox

JJ is IN the toybox!

JJ is IN the toybox!

JJ.. put the ball IN the toybox

put the ball IN the toybox

put the ball IN the toybox

'push it in'

‘push it in’

advancing to concept words such as ‘which’,  ‘where is it? ‘,  following simple directions.. one game was for him to choose a toy (learning the word which),

which?

which?

.. after choosing his toy.. (sheep)  he left the room.. and I hid it in box of balls..  I make him sit before he comes in and first sign ‘box’.. to see if he would go straight to the box or randomly search the whole room.  The next time I may sign ‘box’ then ‘in’,  then ‘sheep.. box.. in’.. (the signs follow BSL structure not English).

'the sheep is IN the box'

‘the sheep is IN the box’

Other useful language is ‘go round’..  that can also be used outdoors where I am often going along a pavement on road to find a car has parked half way up and scooter can not get past,  if its a busy road I prefer the dogs to stay on the pavement.  Inca will ‘go round’ between the car and wall.. JJ has been riding on scooter to pass them when he was small.. when he is more confident on busy roads and will stop and wait at the other side of the vehicle,  he will do the same as Inca.

'go round'

‘go round’

'go through'

‘go through’

put it ON

put it ON

take it OFF

take it OFF

.. several of these skills will come together later for example the game where he was learning to post the letters in the plastic postbox combined with him been able to ‘go round’ between car and a wall when someone has parked too close to postbox and I can’t get scooter right up to it.. I can send him forward.. letter in mouth to post it!

We also play ‘find the phone’.. I start off in the room where he can see it ask him ‘where’ and point ‘look’.. even though he’s just seen me put it there he’s also learning to follow a pointed finger for when he didn’t see me drop/hide something… then we move outside of the room and I point back in  ‘in the room’,  ‘in the kitchen’,  in the bedroom etc… if I fell in the bathroom in future and I knew my phone was ‘IN the room ON the table’ I can direct him where to look.