Training Frank... by Hand
Since Nana's stroke, Frank is even more protective of her
We spent about 2 years researching before we made the decision to get a female Great Pyrenees. We had a female German Sheppard who made it to 16.5 years old and when she passed away, we decided as a family to start on a journey for another dog.
We had two breeds in mind; The Great Pyr and the Standard Poodle. We spent 18 months going to local dog shows and visiting breeders. We travelled over 600km all tolled. We "interviewed" breeders, spent time with the dogs, spoke to owners, and compiled our research. It was a great experience for all of our 5 kids and also for my husband and me. It was unanimous: we were all partial to the big white Mountain Dog.
So we dug deeper. And we heard it all - excessive barking, digging, over protective, shedding, nocturnal, oh, and did I mention the barking? However, the consensus from all the owners, and breeders, was that if we could honestly accept the "negatives", and work through them; the rewards of having a Pyr enriching our home are worth it.
Our family made many trips to the breeder before Frank’s litter was even conceived. We got to know the parents, uncles, and aunts of our dog as well as the breeder and her family.
Once we got Frank home the bonding and training started. My first mistake was thinking she would be easy to train. My second mistake was assuming that the reason she was hard to train was because she lacked intelligence.
Training my Pyr puppy was very challenging. I had to reinvent the techniques I had used so successfully with our German Sheppard. Initially, Frank was not responding the way I wanted to one-word verbal commands. She seemed to need more. I had to be more creative.
The number one thing I discovered was never to underestimate this breed! They are truly independent thinkers. They know their job and are focused on it. If I was going to have any success training Frank I had to tap into her natural instincts.
One thing I noticed was that Frank the pup, was constantly watching us. She was observing everything. Like a guardian dog, she physically moved along with us and became part of our daily pattern. She picked up our routine right away. After less than two months with us, she seemed to know more about us than we did about her. Those eyes kept following me around until I finally clued in that maybe I could communicate with her better on a visual level.
I am probably considered a laughing stock to any dog obedience academy, but teaching Frank hand signals was the answer for us. We have a Pyr who is trained to obey the following hand signals: Sit, Down, Stay, Shake a Paw, Shake the other paw, Up, Way up(hug), Wait, Stop, Let’s go, Watch the kids (you are in charge), Who’s there? and Come over here. (Not conventional commands I am sure, but they work for us.) Frank will do ANYTHING for a tasty morsel and we have capitalized on it big time! I am curious to know if any other Pyr owners out there use hand signals with their dogs.
Life with Frank isn’t all rosy. She’s fairly well trained, but there are some things we just have to live with. We have had our share of craters in the back yard and dog run... I call them “built-in dog beds” because when Frank is done digging she flops down in the hole and lies there with her tongue hanging out. And, of course we deal with Frank's continuous "alarm system". One bark = “Hey, I heard something.” Two more barks = Are you listening? That noise is still there.” Three = “Look, you had better go check it out because I am still hearing it!” Frank, like all Pyrs, loves to communicate to everyone that she is ON THE JOB.
NEWSFLASH: If you do not want a guard dog, don’t opt for a Pyr.
By the way, there is one hand signal that Frank does not always obey. It’s the one with my index finger up touching my lips as I say “SHHHHHHH!!”