January is Adopt a Bird Month. Washington Animal Rescue League and Washington Humane Society take in homeless animals from the DC Metro area. Check Petfinder.com for birds available now.
Birds are flock animals. Dogs are pack animals. My boy zoi and parrot actually like each other very much. I’m not anthropomorphizing. The bird is gentle with the Borzoi, Lance, when he sticks his busy nose in her macaroni. Really, that is almost laboratory proof that she likes the dog considering her otherwise violent tendencies.
Birds are prey and dogs are predators.That is something to consider. Is your Borzoi good with cats? Some really are so gentle. But if your zoi has an itchy chase trigger and is good at grab and shake, you won’t want to have your bird out of the cage while the dog is in the room. But accidents happen so how do you prepare your Borzoi for the new addition?
It just happens to be APDTs Train Your Dog Month so now is the perfect time to work on “Leave it” or target train your zoi. Target training is useful for so many situations. Here’s how it’s done.
Hold a treat behind your back in one hand. Hold out your other hand near your Borzoi. He’ll sniff and probably touch your hand. Say, “Yes!” and give the treat from your hidden hand. Do this about 3 times per session and about 5 sessions today. I’ll bet by the end of the day he’ll be touching your hand as soon as you offer it.
If you like clicker training, hold the treat behind your back also holding a clicker. When your puppy touches your hand, click instead of saying “Yes”. Whatever unique sound you choose, will work.
Now that your dog touches your hand when it’s offered, you’ll add a cue. Start saying “Tag” just before he touches your hand. If he doesn’t touch, don’t give the treat and take your hand down. Say “Tag” and present your hand again. When you think he knows that Tag is a cue that you are going to give him your hand and he could get a treat if he touches, practice asking him to Tag indoors and out, from a distance and while interesting things are going on around him. Any time he does not respond by touching your hand, do not give the treat. If he misses again, go back to a less distracting request (closer to you or without kids running by) and close the session as soon as he succeeds.
Zois are smart. Don’t wait too long to make it challenging and always go back to a successful request if he misses a few in a row. As you increase the difficulty you are earning a dog who will tag your hand from a distance even when exciting things are happening around him. Tag is an excellent tool for today’s purpose, a way to disengage him from a bird or bird cage if you need to.
Target training can also be used to get a dog into the car, off a chair, to teach him to trot on a loose lead and to cross the dog walk without flipping out. Many uses, one cue.
If you do adopt a bird this month, please don’t send me a picture of him riding on your Borzoi’s head. Sure the adoption was my idea but tempting fate is never wise.