New dog tricks


At three years old, Nyx is learning to play fetch. It isn’t something we taught her, exactly; she just figured out that if she dropped a toy in a lap it was more likely to get thrown than if she tried to get us to play with her and take the toy. The funniest thing about this development, though, is that since she was a puppy she has played fetch with herself. She’ll pick up a toy, shake it and run around with it, and then she flings it as hard as she can. As soon as she lets go, she’s chasing it. I have no idea where she learned that particular habit, but it amuses me no end. I don’t know why or when she decided that her version of solitary fetch just wasn’t enough anymore.

She also spent a lot of time emulating the cats while she was little, so she shares some habits with them. If I hold out my hand, my cat will walk under it and keep turning so I’m petting her without doing anything. She’s done that since we got her, and it’s something I’ve seen with other cats, too. Nyx picked up on that, and she’s tall enough that if I just hold my hand out at my side, parallel to the floor, Nyx will walk under it and then turn in circles so I’m petting her.

None of this has to do with the animals not getting enough attention. Most evenings my cat curls up either on my lap or behind my head, and Nyx gets attention pretty much constantly. When we’re settled in the evening, reading or watching television, she has her head on one lap and, often as not, her back end on another lap. She thinks she is a lap dog, but at 120 pounds she’s a little too big to manage it comfortably. We joke about who gets the head end, since the other end is sometimes not as pleasant.

We’ve been doing some clicker training with Nyx, and it’s really interesting to watch her try to figure out what we want. One of the fun things for me is to decide what I want her to do and then click the behaviour. I’m not luring her or trying to teach her, just catching what she does and seeing if she’ll do what I want. It’s a game, and she seems as amused by it as I am. When the clicker comes out, she’s at attention. That probably has a lot ot do with the fact that clicker=treats, but as long as we’re both having fun, that’s fine with me. Clicker training has been much more interesting than even basic treat-based training because I’m asking Nyx to use her brain, to figure things out, and she likes that. I really enjoy watching her figure out the pieces and work her way through things.

I like having animals around for the most part. Sometimes they drive me batty, but I like the companionship. On cold nights, the warmth is nice, too.

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