Saturday, June 30, 2012

Silly Pics to Share...and Signing Dog?

Summertime...and Alfie's been keeping us laughing, as usual.  He strikes this pose every morning while I'm getting ready, leaning all squished up in the corner between our bedroom and bathroom.  It gives me a crick in my neck just looking at him!  But it seems to satisfy his need to be totally relaxed and keep an eye on me at all times.

Alfie's lying with his head and neck leaning against the doorframe all crunched up
This is my signature pose, "Dog with Broken Neck."
For advanced doga experts only!

Alfie also knows how to keep cool on a summer day...okay, he doesn't really wear hats, but this impromptu outfit made me laugh!!

Close shot of Alfie's head wearing my giant straw gardening hat, which is covering all but his snout
Whose crazy idea was this?!

Of course any blog readers who know Alfie's personality at all, know that he's happiest when active and learning.  Sadly, I haven't had time to work on his favorite activity, tracking, this summer.  (Although I still plan to, eventually!)  But I'm always on the alert for new things to try with him.  When I found this book on teaching dogs a special type of sign language, I thought...why not?

Alfie's nosing a book titled Dogs Can Sign, Too
Hmm...looks interesting.

Honestly, as I read through it, I went back and forth between thinking, "Wow -- what a great tool for communicating with your dog!" and "Seriously?!"  But I'm always game to try new things, so I started Alfie in on the "signing" lessons.  The book has a definite system laid out, using each of the paws, and the head, to refer to different types of things (depending on the type of motion).  I'm not doing it exactly according to the lesson plan for a few different reasons.  But Alfie quickly learned that his left front paw means "Food," and his right front paw means "Toy."

One fun result of this endeavor is that it gives Alfie yet another way to communicate.  Granted, he already had ways of letting me know when he wanted to play with a toy, or of asking for a treat.  But last night, as we were watching a movie, he came up and laid his head in my lap.  Thinking he might want to cuddle, I invited him to jump in my lap.  But nope, he didn't want that!  Backing up, he shook his head and panted, giving me a little "gruff."  So I ignored him, but soon his head was back in my lap.  I knew he wanted something, I just didn't know what!  So I looked down and asked him, "What do you want?"  He gave me an exaggerated wave with his front left paw -- the "Food" sign -- and then looked pointedly at my glass of ice water!  

Now, Alfie doesn't normally like ice.  I've tried giving him some before, and it's just ended up all over the floor.  But it has been hot lately, so I gave him a cube of ice out of my the risk of totally spoiling him (yeah, I know, too late for that!)

Sure enough, that was exactly what he wanted.  He crunched it up happily, licking up every last piece.  Then he returned, sat politely, and signed even bigger than before, "FOOD!" -- all the while looking at my glass of ice, silly smile all over his face!  So, yeah, the little rascal talked me out of five cubes of ice...then curled up in a happy little heap at my feet for the rest of the movie!

PS -- Stay of Alfie signing is coming soon!


Erin and Co. said...

Oh Goodness, that's the last thing my dogs would need to know! They do enough verbal communication as it is! However. I'm intrigued. We know that dogs are very visual and respond better to visual signals than verbal.. so its not a real surprise how quickly he picked it up!

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

How interesting! I was thinking the signing part meant what the human does to communicate with the dog--so I was surprised to find you meant the opposite. It's an intriguing idea!

Beth and Alfie said...

Yes, Erin -- I was worried that Alfie would spend all day signing "FOOD, FOOD, FOOD!" -- but he doesn't. Maybe since he's always been taught not to beg? But I've tried getting out a dog treat and a toy, and ask him, "What do you want?" -- and he always signs "Food," never "Toy" -- lol!

Mimi, that was what fascinated me about this -- giving the dog a way to communicate at his choosing, rather than always in response to a command. It's too soon to tell how that will work. But a very interesting idea. I am trying to teach him signs for things he thinks are important, not necessarily what I think is important. :-) So the next sign might be "Squirrel." :-D