Teaching a Dog New Tricks


In the past, I wrote a few newsletters about our cocker spaniel named Keyla, but she has been gone for two years now. And so, last week we finally got a new dog. Her name is Peaches. She is a cocker spaniel, and we “rescued” her from a breeder.

Since Mike and I are older and more prone to falls, we need to be able to walk Peaches without her jerking on the leash and lunging forward. So I have been consistently trying to teach Peaches to “heel” on every walk, and while walking today (and saying “heel” every 10 seconds!) I decided to compare teaching Peaches to heel to learning to play an instrument!

  • Consistency and Practice: Both teaching Peaches to "heel" and learning to play an instrument require consistent training or practice. In both cases, regular sessions and repetition are essential to reinforce the desired behavior or skill.

  • Reinforcement and Rewards: Positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in both situations. In trying to teach Peaches to "heel," I’m using treats and praise to reinforce the correct behavior. Similarly, in learning to play an instrument, you should reward yourself with a sense of accomplishment or small rewards (like an ice cream cone!) for achieving certain milestones or mastering difficult parts.

  • Muscle Memory and Coordination: Learning to play an instrument involves developing muscle memory and coordination between your hands, fingers, and other body parts. Similarly, teaching Peaches to "heel" requires her to develop muscle memory and coordination between her body movements and the cues given by my body.

  • Timing and Rhythm: In both cases, timing and rhythm play important roles. When training Peaches to "heel," I have to time my cues and rewards appropriately to reinforce the behavior. In playing an instrument, timing and rhythm are crucial for producing the correct notes and maintaining a consistent tempo.

  • Patience and Persistence: Both teaching Peaches to "heel" and learning to play an instrument require patience and persistence. Progress may not be immediate, and setbacks are normal. It takes time and consistent effort to achieve the desired results in both activities.

Isn’t that interesting … all the parallels I found between the two learning processes? Peaches isn’t a puppy anymore and she's possibly had a rough life, but I am confident she can and will learn this new trick. You and I aren’t getting any younger either, but I know we are going to amaze our friends with what we can learn.

Happy dulcimering,



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