English for Wally - Pondering Prepositions and Adverbs | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

Translate To Your Language

Friday, October 5, 2012

English for Wally - Pondering Prepositions and Adverbs

Getting back to attempting to use a sort of canine programming language to communicate with him in a new way, I've been considering how to teach him "adverbs" (i.e. how to do something) and "prepositions" (i.e. where to perform an action). I'm thinking "adverbs" would be the most difficult to teach him. Can a dog learn how to perform a behavior in the sense of walking quickly or speaking quietly or even loudly? And then, can a dog learn to do so on cue?

Sure, dogs have louder and softer volumes on their voices. Sometimes Wally whines loudly and sometimes it's softer. Same for his barks and other sounds. Thing is - that's driven by his internal emotional state. If he's really excited or driven for something, he'll bark louder. If he's really hungry, he'll whine louder, but if he's more uncertain or wanting attention for something else - the whines are different.

Emotions aren't logically determined, though, which is what he'll be doing when I'm cuing this and teaching it beforehand. That is where the challenge will be - getting him to purposefully do something differently and then teaching him that's what got him the prize. For example, if I do speaking softly (something like "Wally - Speak - Quietly") how will I be able to communicate to him that the quietly part is what got him rewarded? That's the challenge in "adverbs".

"Prepositions" are probably going to be a bit easier. Where to do something is more obvious to see at work and for the dog to pick up on. Obedience training incorporates this. Heeling, finish, front are examples. Teaching things like laying on a mat is using "prepositions" (the object is the "where" in this case - Lie where? On the mat.) I realize it's not prepositions in strict human language terms (technically, I'm teaching the location, the preposition is "on" in the prior example), but it works for this, especially since dogs don't know anyway.

So Wally already has some exposure to "prepositions", though some, like "front" will take on new meanings - making him have to parse the difference between "Front" (come and sit in front position) and "Get - Ball - Front" (get the ball that's in front position). What also gets interesting as that some will be relative to me and some relative to him. "Front" is relative to me. "Back" would be relative to him (go back/behind you and...).

The other challenge will be getting him to freaking wait and listen for the whole instruction! He's going to hear "get" and be like "okay, I see something, I'll get it!" and just grab something. Going to need patience.

Will be pretty fun and interesting to try, though! Maybe he'll surprise me and catch quick. He caught on to the whistle quicker than I thought.