Thursday, February 4, 2010

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Into the Good Dog Circle

[A photo taken quickly, while Bingo was being good.]
By Fred
Some stories are better told in reverse, like this one, with Bingo finally being a good boy and sitting in the good dog circle of the training class Wednesday night at the Lions Club on Treasure Island. "He made it into the circle!" Cheryl said with such pride on the way home, as if the story begins and ends with that moment. It does not.

We had high hopes for our new plan--to expose him to his distractions, and to keep him at a distance from the other dogs in the class, allowing him to stay calm, and then gradually come him in closer as a reward for being good. But the night started off with a chance meeting in the parking lot. Bingo's brother Jim arrived at the same time, and Bingo was transformed, like one of those cartoon animals who turns into a bottle rocket and shoots straight into the air. Once in outer space, it takes a while for him to float back down.

[A photo of a good dog and raiser on the left and
me and Bingo in exile on the beach,
his eyes shining in the dark]
I took Bingo immediately away from the other dogs--only there was nowhere to go except off the porch and onto the beach. At first I imagined that we could stand out there in the quiet, contemplate the stars and the big emptiness of the gulf behind us, have a nice quiet moment before we inched our way back to the porch. But no. He jumped and laughed and dived, coming up one time with a big mouthful of sand, and laughed some more, twisting and rolling. As it turns out, sand is a another huge distraction for him. Discouraging...

Then it was Cheryl's turn. Everyone practiced going into the front door and using the Switch command (moving the leash from the left to the right hand). Bingo darted and pulled, chasing after every bug, still jazzed up in hyper mode. At this point I'm getting pretty discouraged. But Cheryl was patient and good with him. By the end of class he calmed down, just in time for the good dog circle. The nice thing about doing this with Cheryl: when one of us is discouraged, the other can encourage.

Cheryl and I always pick up something helpful from the training classes, like interrupting a walk with Sit commands as a way to calm him down. (Who knew there would be so much to learn?) Yesterday Bingo and I walked through the neighborhood and it was beautiful: we'd walk a few steps, sit, a few more steps, sit, more steps, etc. and he seemed like he really enjoyed doing it.

Bingo has many good points: he's smart, fearless, tireless and sweet. And he is very obedient when not distracted. With time and maturity and more work on his distractions (and hopefully better guidance from us), he will make it.

1 comment:

  1. Great job, you two! We are learning a lot from watching the challenges you face at the obedience and reading your blog!

    Thanks and keep it up!

    We need all the help we can get as a yellow Lab puppy waits to come home with us this Wednesday!

    Larry and Gabrielle