Thursday, January 13, 2005

Charlie and the Treat Whistle

When Charlie first arrived, he loved to play in the backyard. So much so that it was hard to get him to come back in. And he quickly learned that big people can't catch determined little puppies.

Playing in the yard

So the treat whistle was invented. This had worked successfully with cats previously. Pouncer, for example, is an outdoor cat and loved to mooch at the neighbors. To get her to come home at night, I taught her to associate a special whistle with food in her dish. Being a ravenous little creature (not unlike Charlie) she began coming when "called".

At wits end trying to get Charlie back in the house, I turned to the whistle. At first I whistled the special tune and gave him a treat. Then when we played and I clapped my hands for him to run to me, I'd also whistle it. When he came, he got a treat.

In no time, Charlie was running to me whenever I whistled those notes - even if he was having fun outdoors and I wanted him to come inside! Now he comes reliably. Even if I don't have a treat. In fact, as they say, 'intermittent reinforcement is the most difficult to extinguish'.

Here's an example of Charlie first ignoring me and then coming to the treat whistle.

Here he comes! (click on the image to play a movie; and make sure to turn your speakers on)

I worry that Cal the Wonderdog and Sam the Beautiful All-black German Shepherd will not approve of such shameless manipulation, but I submit that dogs program people all the time. Sitting by the door to go outside, barking for food... who really trains who?

And if I ever have to go searching the neighborhood for his little royal highness, it would be good to have a special way to find him. Anyway, that's my defense. And I'm sticking to it.


Anonymous said...

an interested reader in Oly wonders if this treat whistle is similar to the Hercules whistle of old. I find it also works well with human puppies and, on occasion, spouses.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. That same whistle works on cats in Yakima too. Coincidence? I think not.

Tin Tin Blogdog said...

Heee heee heee,

In fact Charlie has you well-trained.

He's trained you to use a whistle and a treat. So he always gets his treat.

But if you stop giving him treats when you whistle, well maybe he'll reconsider. He knows you'll pat him and praise him anyway so that's good too.

My mum has started using treats to entice me (and I'm 8). Treats are only good if I haven't happened to stumble across a really good smelly fish on the beach.

Smelly fish vs small human-dog treat?

You can do the weighing up of pros and cons and see what you get!
Chow for now,

Tin Tin xo

PS congrats to Charlie on being featured dog on DWB!