Dark chocolate, aliens and teaching your dog English

You have fallen into a deep, deep sleep and dream that you have woken up in a strange room with an odd being covered in tentacles.  The being seems friendly and your stand there not really sure what to do.  Suddenly you hear something that sounds like “yazdak”.  You look around, not sure if the sound was directed to you.  You hear “yazdak” again.  You think that perhaps the being is trying to communicate but you shrug your shoulders and still have no idea what the sound means.  Suddenly the being says the word louder “Yazdak”, and louder still “YAZDAK”.  You feel a little concerned a take a step back still at a loss as to what is expected.  The being seems to sigh and tries one more time “yazdak, yazdak, yazdak” , you shrug and feel a little frustrated at not knowing what is expected of you and then you wake up and with a feeling of relief realize it was only a dream.

You fall back to sleep but this time you are in a room with the same tentacle covered being.  In the corner is a bench and the air smells like chocolate.  You look around, explore the room for a bit and decide you need to sit down.  So you go over to the bench and sit down.  The being approaches you and drops a dark chocolate truffle in your lap.  You think that’s odd but enjoy the chocolate.  After a while you get up, move around and sit down.  Again the being comes over and drops a truffle in your lap.  You think…hmmm…let’s try something and you get up and sit down, truffle; you do it again, truffle and one more time, truffle.  Things are looking up.  You get up and just as you start to sit down, you hear something that sounds like “yazdak” and you get your truffle; hmmm something to think about.  You decide to test your theory and you try again; just as you are sitting down “yazdak”.  You try again with the same result and you realize that you have just learned your first alien word and enjoyed a feast of dark chocolate at the same time.  Suddenly a ringing sound permeates the room and you wake up to the sound of your alarm clock feeling like you had a good sleep and a very pleasant dream.

In our dog’s world, we are the aliens.  We look different and make sounds that are initially meaningless.  If we teach our dog the behaviour first and then add the name (cue), we will help our dog make the connection between the sound coming out of our mouth and the behaviour we want our dog to perform.  If we are rewarding what we want, it won’t take our dog long to figure out what he needs to do to cause his human to dispense another yummy treat.  When the time comes to teach him the English word, he only has to figure out the connection.

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