It must’ve taken Ace 100 repetitions to understand bang (play dead), but he finally has it down, pretty much. Seriously, how hard is it to just lie on your side?
I don’t know how I could’ve made it any easier for the mutt, but he was slow to pick this one up. I taught him by telling him “down,” then making a gun shape with my hand, pointing at him and saying “bang.” Then I moved him to his side and praised him. It took several short training sessions over a few days to teach him this command. He still won’t do it 100 percent of the time, but probably 50 percent. We reached that point where it seemed to really click and he did it several times. He still seems to forget it sometimes, and I have to push him over to his side. Now I am working on getting him to stay like that because he likes to pop right back up and get his treat. Not going to happen! He also likes to keep his head up and tail wagging. We have work to do.
We have also started to work on “bucket,” where Ace puts his tennis ball in a bucket. This is a hard one for the mutt because he is so ball obsessive that all he will focus on is getting me to throw the ball. He stares at it and then picks it up and drops it again and again. What I think is happening is he is dropping the ball in the bucket by coincidence. I am trying to teach him that I will not throw the ball unless he puts it in the bucket first. So, sometimes he puts it in the bucket, but it hasn’t clicked yet or he would do it every time. He seems to think he can get me to throw it without putting it in the bucket first because that’s what I’ve down for a year!
When I’m teaching Ace new things, it works best to work in short sessions of five minutes or less. If we try to work longer, one of us will get frustrated. Either I’ll start to lose my temper because he’s not getting something or he will lose his temper. He will bark at me, like “What are you saying, Human?” That’s when I know I’ve worked on something too long, so we just end with a command he knows and try again later.