When we first adopted Misaki - as an almost seven-year-old retired show dog - we were surprised to find out she didn't know basic commands like sit, stay, down, etc. Apparently this is not what show dogs learn; instead they learn a different kind of commands and something called "stacking."
No big deal, we could just teach the commands to her, right? We taught our Akita all the basics with little trouble, which is easy to do when you have a very food-motivated dog. Ruby was. Misaki is.
But teaching Misaki didn't go so well. She looked at us like were crazy, so we gave up. Besides, she was still a very well-mannered dog, she walked well on leash, she doesn't jump on people (usually) - so what if she doesn't sit on command, right? We aren't sticklers, as perhaps we should be as pack leaders.
Who are we kidding - Misaki runs this pack. She's got us squarely under her paw.
A couple weeks ago we decided to try again, just to see. We used Zuke's treats, giving her the command to sit with a finger snap, tapping her at the base of her tail to encourage her to sit down. And she responded - quickly. In fact, with just a few five-minute sessions Misaki is now sitting on command.
Of course, there are some caveats, as there always is with our cute little Shiba. One, she won't do it for you unless she knows you are holding a treat she can have. Otherwise why bother, right? Also, she will only sit on the carpet, not on the tile in the bathroom or the hardwood floor in the kitchen.
Look at that posture though - a perfect sit! Not the well-known sideways Shiba sit. Sometimes she does want to "stack" though, mostly when she doesn't want to be forced to sit. She'll extend her back legs rigid and somehow make herself unnaturally heavy - she can't be moved. I have no idea how she does this.
But hey, good puppies get treats...
She is normally grateful for the treat. And, she will sit and wait as long as it takes to get the treat.
And if she isn't getting a treat - maybe just some skritches instead - she wants to know why.
There has been an unexpected result of this training. Because her training sessions have been at the same time every day, she now knows exactly what is going on. Why is that important? She doesn't wait for the command. Instead, she just sits right in front of us and expects her treat for being such a good girl.
I'm torn. This is obviously a polite move by the dog, and we like the fact she will sit. However, I have this feeling I've lost control of the situation a bit. After all, if I give her a treat when she sits - rather than me asking her to sit, her sitting, and then giving her a treat - who is training who? She now is the master, I'm only doing what she expects.
Sly, sly move, Miss Misaki. But do I regain the upper hand by knowing what she's doing? She'll probably let me think that.
I have visions in my head of her randomly sitting in front of house guests and waiting for them to do their duty and give her a treat. I can totally see her doing this - maybe even at the beach too. She already looks up at any person who walks by, stopping almost in their path and expecting to get loved up. Sitting and waiting for a treat is the obvious next step.
Have to keep an eye on that girl.
So there you have it - you can teach an old dog new tricks! Don't tell her I said that.