OK. In junior high I practiced hard, but I wasn't the best basketball player. Like my other unfortunate and nerdy friends, I sat on the bench most of the game, hoping to play in those last few seconds when I couldn't possibly make things any worse. I remember thinking Come on, coach, just let me play.
Last night at training class Bingo and I sat the bench while the good players got to show off. Or rather we stood at the far, dark perimeter of a grassy field and watched as the good dogs worked out, like basketball players on the court, in a circle of light at the center. Cheryl has a cold, so Bingo and I were on our own.
We did some doggy push ups (sit, down, stay, stand) and when Bingo did well, we took a few steps toward the circle. Failure to do well, and we took a few steps back. Of course, he already is pretty good at sit and down and stay (he has a down that would make you cry). Failure, for him, is losing his patience and attempting to run wild into the circle and doing who-knows-what. (He also was distracted by the smells that radiate from a field of grass just outside a vet's office, but that's another issue.)
Toward the end of the class, the message is getting through to him. To get closer, he must be a good boy. We get a little closer. Finally, with a few seconds left in the game, Jennifer (our SEGD coach and trainer) asks if Bingo is ready to play. We walk slowly into the circle, calmly, and after a few steps he makes a single lunge at one of the dogs. NO, I say, and we sit for a few seconds, then walk forward again, calmly again. He sits. Good boy. Calm. And we turn around to leave the circle. Good dog. For him, really good dog.
Thanks to Jennifer, this seems to be the perfect strategy for Bingo. Be good or sit the bench.