a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Weighing the Dog Beasts

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Weighing the Dog Beasts

SUMMARY: How to do it?

Over the 27 years that I've owned dogs, I've kept track of their weights by picking them up, standing on the bathroom scale with them, and then subtracting my weight. Works great. As long as you don't have, just for example, say, bad back, bad knees, bad shoulders... any one of which makes it painful to hold even a mere 35-lb dog. (I seem to recall that Amber, my first dog, was over 50 lbs...  I wonder where I'd have that info recorded? Being the obsessive data-recording wonk that I am.)

I've been saying for several years now that I need to teach the dogs to get onto the scale themselves and stand there long enough to get the reading. I started once, using the scale on the floor, and realized that it's flat enough that they don't seem to get the idea of standing on it instead of walking across it.  (A dedicated trainer would work through that. I'm not that, in the last several years.) So I gave up.

But now:  Zorro has clearly gained weight. Chip's diet changed 6 weeks ago and now he's clearly losing weight.  And they've both old enough to start thinking seriously about their weight gain or loss. (Yeah, can weigh for free I think at Pet Club, but that involves driving there, taking the dogs one at a time...  yeah, no.)

Figured I needed something about the size of the scale that is elevated and sturdy for them to learn on. Couldn't think of anything all this time, but this morning my little sturdy step-stool that "holds up to 300 lbs." caught my eye. Aha!

Videotaped my *first* training session with them.  Notes:
  • Have never taught them specifically to get up onto something small.
  • They are both operant enough to know that, if I put something in front of them, they're expected to do something in relation to it (could be to touch it, could be to deliberately not touch it...).
  • I wanted to shape this, with a little luring if needed.
  • Today I use "yes" instead of a clicker to mark desired actions. (I'll check my timing--last video I did, I saw that I was late every time!)
  • Both immediately went to putting their front feet on it. Marked any action that got them closer to getting and keeping both feet on.
  • Back feet: Marked any movement of a back foot towards the stool. (I should have placed the camera for a side view so that these movements were visible. Oh, well.)

Easy success with Zorro, reasonable success for Chip who thinks things through much more and whose body is longer and less compact.

Next steps: Reinforce getting on; add a command; practice holding still; can I get them to sit there? switch to scale instead of stool (it's larger, so maybe easier?)...

... hang on, posting on YouTube, come back in a few  minutes...  should be up by 10:45 AM today:


  1. Awwwww, so fun to see them both in action! They are both very smart! And clearly like treats. :)

    1. So very true about the treats! Zorro almost loses his brain sometimes when treats are involved. Chip is just so cute and careful.