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Chapter Thirty Three—Training and Tricks
When Bailey begged for her second helping of peanut butter, Lolly realized that she could use peanut butter, and perhaps the diet pet treats Grandma Brown bought, to train both Bailey and me to do tricks. Because of her shameless and voracious passion for food, Bailey became the obvious first choice. There was very little Bailey wouldn’t try just for the mere promise of a treat. Bailey’s drive and determination for a treat soon made her Lolly’s star student.
I, on the other hand, was not so receptive to Lolly’s training techniques. First off, I really could take or leave those diet kitty treats. Secondly, my motivation was far different. I only played along with this training thing to spend time with my girl. For me it was just another game, like dolls, crafts or treehouse time. Sure there was one key difference: this game required a little more action on my part. I couldn’t just lie there and purr my way through—Lolly demanded results. Her attempts to teach me to “sit”, “stay”, and “rollover” garnered only limited results. Often I would just head-butt her and rub up against her. Sometimes, to keep her from being totally discouraged, I would lay down and show her my tummy.
Bailey just couldn’t understand why I didn’t try harder to please Lolly. The training and tricks thing seemed to be a win-win for her. Where else does a pet get attention and a seemingly endless supply of treats? For her it was something of a no-brainer. Before long, Bailey was able to ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘roll over’, ‘shake a paw’, ‘speak’, and ‘kiss’ on demand. Other ‘tricks’ that seemed to take longer for Bailey to master involved either some kind of delayed gratification, or a certain kind of stillness.
Except for when they are sleeping, basset hounds are among some of the squirmiest dogs out there. The moment they try to sit still, they get even squirmier. Therefore, the harder Lolly tried to teach Bailey the “Bang! You’re dead” command, the more Bailey would twitch and wiggle. The thought of the treat at the end of the trick would get Bailey’s tail wagging, and mouth drooling. Then, before we knew it, Bailey would be licking her chops and thumping her tail. Sometimes she would even start whining. Lolly would let out an exasperated sigh, and get Bailey to try again.
It was fun to watch Bailey learn, and struggle to learn, new tricks. My favorite was the ‘track and find’ game. Lolly read that most basset hounds were expert tracking dogs. They could track a sent, and find just about anything. Sadly for Lolly, Bailey was not most basset hounds. Typically basset hounds need tracking training from a very early age in order to be an expert tracker. Pops had Bailey from a pup, but he never really worried about training her to track because all he ever wanted from Bailey was her company. Pops is the kind of guy who could care less about tricks and training.
I loved watching Bailey and Lolly play ‘track and find’. Lolly would let Bailey outside, and while Bailey was outside, Lolly would hide doggie treats all over the house. I would follow and make note of where she put all the treats. I had to hand it to my girl, she would choose hiding spots in a variety of difficulties. She wanted to make sure that Bailey experienced some success so that she wouldn’t give up too quickly. It was a marvel to watch things unfold. Outside, Bailey yipped and yelped in anticipation, and inside Lolly giggled and scampered throughout the house. Finally, Lolly would let Bailey in. Bailey would feverishly sniff and snuffle her way throughout the house.
Bailey loved sniffing smells, and despite her joy and determination for Lolly’s training, Bailey would get easily distracted by all the many smells that her nose found. Before too long, Bailey would lose the scent she was supposed by tracking. It was kind of excruciating to watch. Bailey would get so close to following the scent and then she would get distracted. Eventually, I felt compelled to help Bailey with her focus. So, I would sit beside a hidden treat, and casually point my tail at the treat. Then, I would stare at Bailey and purr. Time after time, Bailey would run right past me. Sometimes she would notice me and say, “can’t talk…smelling sm—shoes!”
In times such as these I would get frustrated—seriously, how hard could it be to just focus? After all, I have been known to spend minutes on stalking a moth without letting the smallest thing distract me. Bailey would miss hint after hint—never realizing all the super obvious hints I was tossing her way. Dogs can be so…stupid! Eventually, after like the tenth ‘hint’ Bailey ignored, I lost my patience. With an indignant flip of my tail, I yelled at Bailey. I scolded her for being so dense. Bailey hardly even noticed I was in the same room—she was busy sniffing one of Grandma Brown’s plants.
Now, I really wasn’t a big fan of doggy treats, but Bailey didn’t really take time to notice this. I decided to use this to my advantage. I went to one of the more obvious hiding spots and started poking out the treat. All the while I kept ‘thinking out loud’ like Bailey does.
“Hmmm…what am I smelling? Oh! Wait –it smells like one of Bailey’s treats. Mmmmm turkey jerky…num num! Too bad Bailey is busy smelling the dust on that plant over there…”
I am not sure if it was hearing her name, or the word “turkey jerky” but Bailey abruptly stopped her plant sniffing and ran directly to me. With her big head she nuzzled, wedged, and shoved me aside while she went after the hidden treat. Her tail wagged so fast, it almost seemed invisible to the naked eye. Bailey, invigorated by her ‘success’, went on to find three more treats all by herself. Lolly beamed proudly at her star student.