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Ty – The Wonder Dog?

By David Dickey, CPDT

Does your dog have the potential to become a movie star? So many people have told Tracy Neumeier that her dog should be, she has started to take it seriously. Tracy, a preschool teacher at American Martyrs, was walking down the street with Ty one day, when an animal movie agent stopped and advised her that Ty had the X-factor that makes dogs successful in front of a camera.

One look at Ty suggests he might be some fancy new mixed breed. “No one really knows what kind of dog he is, but they think he is a cockapoo.” He is not from some expensive pet store or breeding facility. Ty was purchased from a Utah backyard breeder who let him go at the very early age of 3 weeks. Tracy explains that, “He was locked in a crate all the time. He was very dirty and in really unhealthy conditions.” She originally visited the breeder to see some other puppies, but when Ty ran into the room, Tracy knew she had to have him.

Ty had an automatic aversion to the crate, because he’d been locked inside and forced to relieve himself and live in his own waste. This caused him to hate the crate and to refuse to sleep in it. “I tried to crate train him for two weeks, and finally, I just let him sleep in my bed and he was fine,” Tracy explains. Some dogs cannot and should not be crate trained, and Ty’s past made him one of them. Tracy gave Ty the opportunity to prove that he could be trusted outside the crate and that trust was rewarded, as Ty has not been in a crate ever since.

When you meet Ty, you can’t help but notice his incredible spirit of play. He is able to make everything into a game and is always having fun. When it came time to train him, we focused on using a clicker, since it matched his personality type and could be very easily adapted for any future movie or TV career.

Clicker training is a great method when you are trying to create a learning platform from which a dog can learn a large variety of behaviors and tricks. This method gives your dog immediate feedback of when his behavior matches what you are looking for.

Here’s how clicker training works. The dog associates the click with something good, in this case a treat. You click to indicate to the dog he did something correct, and it lets him know that in a moment, he will receive a treat. The clicker allows you that moment in time to give him the treat for demonstrating appropriate behavior. This is important because the optional timing to reinforce good behavior is from ½ second to 2 seconds. Clickers allow you to pinpoint your dog’s correct behavior immediately at any distance. Dolphins are taught with a similar technique but with whistles, more easily heard under water, instead of a clicker.

Ty was able to learn the clicker method quickly, because it is a very positive technique. Unless the dog is afraid of the noise the clicker makes, it will allow him to learn complicated commands quickly. “Ty picked up the clicker training very quickly,” said Tracy. Later, once Ty knew what Tracy wanted, she was able to phase out the clicker rather quickly. Tracy explains “I no longer need to use the clicker, but if I were to teach something new, then I know I can do so with the clicker.”

Tracy is planning to start slowly with Ty’s movie career. “I think I’ll have him start by modeling sweaters and clothes. I’m concerned that asking too much of him too soon may make him too mechanical. That’s not why I got him. I want him to be a dog and enjoy himself.”

Tracy’s patience, kindness and ability to make everything a game has made Ty blossom into a wonderful, intelligent friend and companion. Tracy’s experience as a preschool teacher has made her an outstanding doggie mommy, and I’m certain an equally outstanding teacher.


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