Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Talbot's Top Ten Tips to train your dog to misbehave...

Out at the camp we have a veritable menagerie comprising about 50 chickens, 3 goats, a dog and the usual population of African bugs, lizards and bitey things.

Our favourite though is the camp dog. His name is Tunza, which is Swahili for 'to keep' or 'to protect'. We found him on a beach at Tunza Lodge on Lake Victoria amongst a litter of flea bitten but otherwise lovable pups.  The camp needed the security beefed up at the time (at least that's the excuse we used) and the dog's owners were only too happy to get rid of at least one pup to a good home.  We picked Tunza by a rigorous selection and analysis process of walking up to the litter and saying 'BOO'.

The one that stood his ground long enough to realise that all his litter-mates had scarpered was Tunza (the chosen one). Hence the five week old flea-bag made his way by private charter flight to his own little paradise (Tunzatown).

His first challenge was passing security at Mwanza International Airport (a large shed with a couple of metal detectors and xray machines). Because he was in a carry bag (it wasn't plastic so don't bother ringing the SPCA), the ever-diligent (well, sometimes not sleeping) security officers there wanted to put him through the X-ray machine.  The resulting (verbal) battle of wits between security and his feisty Scottish 'mum' lasted about 15 minutes but 3 burly security officers were no match for the pocket rocket.  He was eventually carried through the metal detector safely in her arms (sans the empty bag which had to be x-rayed).

At camp however, we have people coming and going all season, including a range of local staff, consulting geologists and local villagers. Not many people in that group have trained dogs before so his first year of meeting strange people on a near daily basis have taught him to cope with uncertainty. The biggest challenge has been teaching his 'pack' (ie. the people in Tunzatown) to be consistent with him.  We recently came up with a cunning plan to offer them some tongue-in-cheek guidance.  Hopefully you might find the following amusing or even useful if you're having similar issues with dogs, kids, spouses, visitors, etc.


Ten tips on how to get Tunza to annoy you (and us)....

Tunza is mostly well behaved and spends a lot of his day lying unnoticed in companionable silence, but he’s still young and silly, so if you want him to annoy you and the rest of us, here are some tips.

1. Train him to jump up on people. He’s a big, powerful dog and loves to be face to face with you, but doesn’t instinctively know to jump up. Best to make it a game and encourage him with high pitched squeals and arm waving.  Whatever you do, don’t knee him in the chest. As mentioned, he learns quickly and this will stop him from jumping up in no time.  As per point 5, being inconsistent is OK though, as that not only confuses the heck out of him but also teaches him to behave unpredictably.

2. Train him that it’s OK to bite people. Most young dogs go through a long teething phase. Tunza has lots of things to chew on around here but the best way to make him annoying is to encourage him to play-bite us or to mock fight with him. He loves this. If you get him really revved up, you could probably get him to draw blood by accident which would not only be inconvenient to those of us who have to dress your wounds but could even get infected which would earn you a gold-star for ‘annoying’. Two gold stars if he bites someone else as a result of your training.

3. Encourage him to hump your leg. This will ensure that he does it to all of us and will teach him to come running up behind you to do it.

4. Teach him to beg for food. It’s really endearing to have him beg at the table and push his nose into our crotches while we’re eating, but he won’t do this unless you actively sneak him food at the table. It doesn’t take much effort – just a tidbit once a week. He’s very trainable and even a small amount occasionally will ensure he keeps harassing us at the dinner table. The worst thing you can do is to ignore him – he’ll get bored and go away to lie down quietly somewhere if you do this.

5. Squeal and wave your arms around whenever he does something you don’t like. He’ll think you’re inviting him to play and he loves to play. You’ll have him jumping on you and play-biting in no time.

6. Get him revved up by playing roughly with him. Once he’s in full mode, all you have to do is stop suddenly when you get bored. This will really confuse him and ensure he’ll keep on doing it after you stop. With luck, he’ll also annoy the rest of us.

7. Be inconsistent. This is the best way to get him to misbehave. Some suggestions:

  • Use different words for the same command. Eg: Instead of saying “No”, try saying “Toka hapa”, “Bad dog”, “Stop that!”
  • Play with him roughly one day then scold him when he plays roughly with you the next day.
  • Use his name when you’re scolding him. “Tunza NO!” sounds really similar to “Tunza come!”, etc so you’ll confuse the heck out of him in no time.
  • Chicken chasing. Encourage him to chase the chickens or goats out of the pantry, then yell and scream at him to stop when he actually catches one.

8. Use the same tone of voice all the time.  Dog’s don’t understand many words but they are really good at interpreting your tone of voice, so if you keep the same tone of voice when playing, speaking, scolding him, calling him, etc he’ll quickly learn to ignore you and will keep on doing whatever he wants.

9. Teach him that being underfoot is fun. Pat him whenever he is in your hut, the workshop or generally just in the way, and he’ll keep coming back. Sadly, being ignored is no fun for Tunza, so if you just ignore him, he’ll will stop coming back and will go find someone else to play with.

10. Feed him outside meal times. Preferably at random times, in different locations by random people. It will not only make him fat but helps him to see every piece of food in the pantry or the kitchen table as being rightfully his.

Tunza doesn’t belong to anyone in particular here. He is a member of the camp and it’s up to all of us to treat him as such.  If you don’t want him to be here, you’ve got two choices: find him (or yourself) another home or; confuse him so that he starts behaving unpredictably, annoys everyone, gets in the way and if you’re really successful, becomes aggressive towards strangers so that he has to be put down.

Meanwhile, I think we've figured out why the goats don't want to play with him...
"It wasn't me...  He was like that when I found him - honest."

"I don't care if you goats don't want to play, I've a new friend just like me..."

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