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From Cage to Stage: Days 2 thru 6 - What About Love?

Updated on March 12, 2013
Chihuahuas Maude and Gertie go on their first ever outdoor exploration.
Chihuahuas Maude and Gertie go on their first ever outdoor exploration.
Gertie the Chihuahua, excited about life.
Gertie the Chihuahua, excited about life.
Maude the Chihuahua checks in with her foster sister Gertie  during her explorations.
Maude the Chihuahua checks in with her foster sister Gertie during her explorations.

Chihuahuas Meet World

If you are out the loop, jump back to Day 1, and read about the beginning Maude and Gertie's journey to play Bruiser in Legally Bolonde: The Musical.

If you are in the loop, it is definitely time for an update. The chihuahuas have improved a great deal in the past 6 days. Both have mastered the stairs, the leash, and sitting on command. They are still a bit people shy, but I can see their confidence growing by the day. They greet me in the morning with wagging tails, and can barely keep their eyes open by the time we have finished training for the night.

Both have picked up potty training very quickly. Maude hasn't had any accidents since I brought her home, and after the first night Gertie has only had accidents on the way to the door that leads outside.

They are also getting healthy! The critters have both had their collars tightened a notch because they are getting "whipped into shape" (to quote Legally Blonde). They climb two flights of stairs at least 5 times a day, and walk to the theatre and back once a day. Two flights of stairs is like a small mountain to a chihuahua.


Lily Mae will be playing "Rufus" in Legally Blonde: The Musical
Lily Mae will be playing "Rufus" in Legally Blonde: The Musical
Maude and Gertie the Chihuahuas hang out under a table in the Green Room after being welcomed by the theatre department
Maude and Gertie the Chihuahuas hang out under a table in the Green Room after being welcomed by the theatre department

Lily Joins the Ranks

I visited the theatre with the chihuahuas in tow to begin acclimating them to an environment with a lot of foot traffic. I always bring my dog, Lily, along because Gertie and Maude mimic her. Which at times can be a frightening thought. But especially in potty training Lily has been a great help because the chihuahuas see me praise her for going potty outside and immediately follow suite.

Ahh, jealousy.

The director, Millie Garvey, was at the theatre and met the chihuahuas for the first time. Millie has a fond spot for Gertie, so I'm sure she will be rooting for Gertie to learn the fastest. Millie saw Lily and pointed out that there is a bulldog in Legally Blonde: The Musical that had not been cast yet. Lily is a bulldog. Kind of. She got the part.

I will start following Lily's progress on here too, so a little bit about her. I adopted Lily from the Moberly Animal Shelter in August of 2012. Lily had been at the shelter several times, presumably because she kept running away, and the previous owner stopped coming back to get her. She is an extremely energetic dog, and I have reason to believe that she was jumping her former owners fence to escape.

I have already trained Lily in basic obedience skills, so she already has many of the skills she will need. Her main challenge will be overcoming her doggie ADHD and staying focused while she is on stage. She also gets very overstimulated around - well - basically anyone but me. So Lily and the chihuahuas will need to be socialized around a lot of people, but for Lily it will be to learn to be less excited about people, not more excited.


Audition Day

My puppies got in to the show merely by being in the right place at the right time. I had to be in the right place at the right time (Macklanburg Playhouse, 10:30 am) AND audition. But what a fun show to audition for! The music is all so high energy that it is hard not to have a good time. I got my first callback for a musical at Stephens College, and was cast in the ensemble. So now I am joining the cast with my four legged room mates. I feel a little bit like I am covering three parts. And now that I think of it, if Lily gets incapacitated...does that make me her understudy?

All dressed up for my audition for Legally Blonde, and it seemed like a chihuahua was an appropriate accessory.
All dressed up for my audition for Legally Blonde, and it seemed like a chihuahua was an appropriate accessory.

Skill Progress Chart

 
Gertie
Maude
Lily
Leash
3
3
4
Stairs
3
3
5
Sit
3
2
4
Stay
2
1
3
Come
3
1
3
Speak
0
2
3
Hit Mark
0
0
N/A
In Bag
0
0
N/A
Hug
N/A
N/A
1
Shake
N/A
N/A
4
Be Carried
3
2
1
Be Petted
4
2
3
Rankings of skill level 1-5. 1 = skill just introduced, 5 = skill is performance ready

Training Begins

Training for the show had to begin before behavioral skills were perfectly mastered because the time I have to get the dogs ready for rehearsals is so brief (about 3 weeks until rehearsals begin). It is interesting to figure out how each dog learns best. Each one has a different reward system. Lily responds best to toys (exciting, but not so exciting that she looses focus), Maude responds best to verbal praise, and Gertie responds best to food rewards.

Each dog receives 15 minutes of personal training time a day, they spend an hour a day together at the theatre getting acclimated, and throughout the day the tricks they learn in their one on one time are reinforced.

It is the most fun when they learn from each other. Maude is a copy cat - she picked up sit from Gertie and speak from Lily. Gertie usually learns best when she is jealous that someone else is getting praised for the skill she is learning. Usually Lily is the one setting the example, and the extra praise I give Lily to make Gertie jealous is already vastly improving Lily's skill set. The dogs also get excited for each other, which is one of the cutest things to watch. Today Maude was refusing to sit and Gertie came over and put a paw on Maude's rear end. Maude sat. Intentional? Maybe or maybe not. I praised Maude and they all rejoiced.

Lily learned her first full scene last night. We practiced on stage this morning with varied results. She did perfectly when it was just me putting her through the paces, but when I recruited my friend Emma to stand in as one of the other characters on stage she lost focus and ran to Emma instead of to me. After a few run throughs she calmed down and did the scene correctly. She got confused again when our resident scenic designer came in, and instead of running on stage she ran off in the opposite direction to greet him. Moral of the story - she is going to have to learn to work through distractions.

Here's a little sneak peak of Gertie staying on command and Maude speaking on command. Neither of them have perfected their respective skills yet, but they are getting quite good. I am hoping that Gertie can practice her sit/stay/come on stage tomorrow afternoon.

Keep following these pups and help them find good homes!

You can submit an adoption application for Maude and Gertie at columbia2ndchance.org

You can find information about tickets to Legally Blonde at Stephens College here.


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      Allison 4 years ago

      musicalgeek95, I'm having a bit of trouble with that one to. Maude and Lily figured it out really quickly but I have had no luck with Gertie. The easiest way to teach it is to find something that makes them naturally bark, then say the command/show them the hand signal when they are already barking followed by a whole lot of praise (either a treat or verbal). Gertie only barks when I am not in the room, so she is difficult to teach. Maude barks a lot more so she was a lot easier. I think it also takes a long time for their brain to be able to directly control their ability to bark. All three dogs I have successfully trained to speak on command understood what I wanted before they could actually make a barking sound (for instance, Maude used to sneeze over and over again when I asked her to speak because she had not figured out how to sue the air correctly to make the sound). It is important to praise the attempt so that they keep trying. It could take a couple of weeks for them to do it consistently.

      Maude is no longer doing the show because she had a lot of fear issues from her prior situation so we are changing things a bit for Gertie. Instead of barking we are having Gertie run on and sit at Margot's feet. Margot then kneels down and puts a treat right next to her ear. Gertie leans in to the treat and it looks like she is whispering in to Margot's ear. Not perfect, but still really cute. I hope this helped. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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      musicalgeek95 4 years ago

      Hi my chihuahua is going to play Bruiser in a community production of Legally Blonde. I was wondering if you have any tips on training her... specifically on how to speak on command?

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      Emma 4 years ago

      I love Gertie and Maud! These pups are so adorable! They deserve wonderful homes.

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      cuz slb 4 years ago

      Way to Go, Allie! Very neat, working with the dogs in this way. I'm sure that all three canines are training you quite well!