I like to read books on dog training. Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the Dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. For a number of years past I have been agreeably encumbered by a very large and dissolute dachshund named Fred. Of all the dogs whom I have served I’ve never known one who understood so much of what I say or held it in such deep contempt. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something that he wants to do.
–E.B. White on Dogs
Ever since obtaining Hildegard, our enormous standard dachshund, I have held particular affection for that quote from E.B. White. My appreciation for his words has grown since commissioning a carpeted ramp from my friend at PM Cronin Woodshop so that that Hildy, who is now twelve, and Clara, no spring chicken at seven, can move easily from our bed to the ground without risking back injury, to which dachshunds are prone. That was the idea, anyway.
When my friend installed the absolutely gorgeous ramp he built for us (all masked and distanced, natch), we successfully got both dogs to go up and down the ramp by offering them treats. However, they haven’t yet used the ramp to get into bed at night (Hildy insists on jumping up, Clara whines to be picked up in the middle of the night). Thus, actual training was needed in order to reinforce ramp use and, hopefully, lead to independent exploration.
1 x freaking awesome dog ramp (super sweet shoe storage optional)!
2 x large standard dachshunds of varying enthusiasm
1 x bag of training treats (I break these into smaller pieces)
STEP 1: Deploy treat bits along the length of the ramp far enough from the edge that sneaky dogs cannot snarf them without first getting on the ramp.
STEP 2: Lure dachshund subject #1 to the bottom of the ramp with a treat and verbally encourage her to climb to ramp for the rest of the treats.
STEP 3: Once subject #1 reaches the top, lure her on to the bed, praise her, and reward with more treats, then reverse the process to return the dachshund to terra firma.
STEP 4: Repeat until subject #1 demonstrates a reliable association between reward and behavior.
STEP 5: With an undue sense of confidence, prepare to repeat the experiment with subject #2 by replacing ramp treats, then reward subject #2 for putting her front feet on the ramp.
STEP 6: Ignore subject #2 when she leaps directly up on the bed to demonstrate a superior method of ascent. Add more ramp treats to encourage subject #2 to descend the ramp. Do not provide treats when subject #2 jumps off the bed and stands at the bottom of the ramp wagging because her way is so much more efficient than the experimenter’s.
STEP 7: Replace all ramp treats after subject #1 demonstrates her new ramp-climbing-for-treats skills, then shoo subject #1 away so subject #2 can have another go.
STEP 8: Studiously ignore subject #2 jumping up and down from the bed repeatedly and with increasing excitement to prove the reproducibility of her preferred method in the vain hope that subject #2 will connect lack of reward to bed-jumping. Patiently offer subject #2 a treat for taking her place at the bottom of the ramp.
STEP 9: Attempt to calm subject #1 who has started barking to protest the injustice of being denied the opportunity to earn more ramp treats.
STEP 10: Freeze at the retching sound from the hallway.
STEP 11: Clean carpet where subject #2 deposited what few treats she has earned, thus demonstrating the downside of subject #2’s preferred method of ascent/descent.
While the objective of the exercise was understood by all test subjects, compliance and enthusiasm were varied, which led to mixed results. Hypothesis: subject #2 may be afraid of the ramp, which we are currently testing by throwing a bunch of dirty clothes on the ramp in order to make it smell more like home. [Not pictured. You’re welcome.] Experimenters will soldier on while bearing in mind that old saying about old dogs and new tricks.