Dog trains man

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Viva Sunday #4: Waiting For Patience

Kenzo can be patient. I would even brag about, I taught him, if it wasn't for Viva to prove me wrong.

When we train patience excercises, Kenzo could hold utterly still, look in my eyes with that serene look of a dog that understands that if he would wait long enough, the reward will come. And when it did, he celebrated his accomplishment.

Actually Viva could do that too. Technically. She would also, unlike Kenzo, do it under loud protest. She would snort, sneeze, growl and bark in frustration, in an attempt to convince me she was being patient, and her reward was already long overdue.

In Viva's world there was no room for a patience game. If you know what you want, go for it. The direct approach. All else made no sense to her.

Her goal-oriented attitude was a big plus in other forms of training. It took her maybe half a year, to be just as good a tracker as Kenzo was, and has since, by far outperformed him. She would have been a great dog to compete with, would her environment not have stressed her out. Viva was always "on" and ready to track. Although waiting for me to lay out the actual track, was again something she never took for an opportunity to train her patience, and was done under loud protest - see picture.

Many of the cues I used with Kenzo and hadn't come around yet to teach Viva, she learned herself by observing what we did. One of those was "search", which I asked Kenzo to do if either one of them had dropped their ball and I couldn't find it.

After she observed many searches, she started to recognize the cue, and one of the times I asked Kenzo to "search", I noticed a click in Viva's look. A split second in which she froze, looked at me with big eyes, and then stepped forward in a way that expressed purpose.

She soon became an excellent searcher too. When a search was too difficult or took to long, Kenzo lost interest, but Viva always continued until she found it. She never let a mission go unaccomplished and proved she could exert patience where Kenzo couldn't. Just not the waiting kind of patience.

It is one of the things I remember to be such an unexpected gift, of having two dogs at the same time that were in many ways each other's opposite. Recognizing those differences helped me in understanding each of them better, and to appreciate their different personalities.


  1. While I also try to teach my dogs patience & impulse control, I have to admit ... I do sort of like when they protest and let their personality break through.

  2. It's funny -- and a little poignant -- how Viva's personality is really coming through in this series. As usual, it made me laugh as well as cry. I loved the portrait of Viva being "technically" patient with a certain type of exercise, under loud protest -- and yet being extremely patient -- or committed -- with a completely different type of reward.

    1. I can related to all the mixed feelings it must give. It feels exactly the same when I write it, although I am glad to give a little more detail about the different sides of her personality.


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