A Standard Poodle Embarks on a Life of Crime

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oh, it was such unconventional thievery – while young Sophia was looking the other way, Astro cunningly approached her, found the wallet in her jeans back pocket, carefully pulled it out and brought it to me. Good boy!!

This could be a nice sideline for my 2.5 year old Standard Poodle. It would be great if the dogs could pay for their own room and board; now perhaps there’s a chance!

The pickpocketing incident happened as part of a public “train off” at Dog Day at Skyline Farm. The “train off” pits professional trainers and their dogs against each other in a silly speed-training competition. Professional trainers can have the tendency to be as territorial as the iconic junkyard watchdog, but this was a very friendly flavor of competition between trainers who enjoy working together – Jessica Robichaud of The Capable Canine and Liz Langham of Tree Frog Farm Dog Training. It was a fun and unique opportunity for the public to see trainers and their dogs in action. And Astro won! I was very proud of my little pickpocketer.

Even though it might look complicated, it’s actually quite simple to teach a dog to become a pickpocket. All you need is to combine “retrieve” with “find it” – two fabulous games that any dog can learn, of any age or breed. These two games are extremely adaptable and transferable – our dogs often play them in a very competitive way, which adds even more value to them. If you vary the object frequently, they really learn to generalize the behavior. It activates that wonderful olfactory system, turns on the prey drive and puts it all to practical use.

Okay, maybe not THAT practical in this case.