Two of this week’s photos show my pal Bodhi zonked. We’re tiring him out with longer walks, and something new. He’s reached an age when his inquisitive mind needs more occupation.
Obedience training has begun.
I took both Zele and Stella to Warrenton Kennel Club’s training sessions when they were pups, but the next scheduled classes don’t begin until January. Bodhi is ready now.
One thing I learned from working with Z, and then again with Stella years ago is that success comes from repetition.
I’d take each to an hour-long class one evening, then work with the dog for ten- to thirty-minutes each evening for the rest of the week. We began on the shorter end, and gradually increased time as attention spans lengthened.
The hour-long class was as much for training me as it was for training the dog. It communicated methods for teaching obedience while disposing of practices that don’t help her learn.
We learned to use positive reinforcement, and above all make it fun for the dog and simple enough for her to gain praise. Use single-word commands consistently. Speak the command in a firm tone of voice. Reward with praise and a training treat if she obeys on the first try. Reward with only praise if it takes two tries. Form the correct behavior with hands on her body while voicing the command if it goes to three. Gradually wean her from treats to praise-only. Mind the dog’s nose; where it points is where she goes. Her attention should be on me. Use minor corrections with a training collar to bring attention back to what we’re doing. Use significant corrections only when the dog has gone completely off the hook. Sometimes it takes one or two significant corrections at the outset of the first session to establish who’s alpha in the relationship.
We’d both take one evening off to make the seven-week stretch tolerable, but never the evening before the next class.
We had a well-behaved dog on the road to being a calm, happy member of our family by the end of the course. Another seven-week course was available for gaining Canine Good Citizenship certification, but by then I was satisfied with both dogs’ behavior, and frankly ready to cease training.
Bodhi and I began training this week in our garage. Absent our cars the space makes a comfortable training ring for a single dog. We’re doing maybe ten minutes of walking at heel, stopping randomly to sit. He does pretty well with this, parking himself at my side when I stop walking without being told.
He already has the “sit” command down pat.
I drop the lead, put him in a stay, and walk to the other side of the garage. He does well here, too, but he fooled me a few times responding to a “Bodhi, come!” right away. Eventually I realized he was coming not on command, but to the sound of my voice. Counting up to ten out loud with varying emphasis keeps him listening until he hears the right command. “Stay” is a work in progress.
There’s always much praise that goes with being a good boy.
It’s not all work for Mr. Bodhi. He spends three days a week at our shop, taking a few walks out to the Warrenton Greenway and up and down Main Street. He meets everyone who comes into the shop. The only thing I’ve seen him consistently shy from is an aggressively barking dog.
The new Warrenton dog park opens a month from now. There will be a ceremony, and the mayor’s “first dog” will take the inaugural romp. Bodhi will be close behind, and perhaps complicit in a covert inaugural romp of his own.
He still fits under my living room chair for a nap, though the end for that is almost upon us. It’s already a tight squeeze. We’re guessing he’ll clock in at forty-six or 47-pounds at his next vet appointment, a week from now.
I love this not-so-little guy, but more importantly, I like his personality. He’s a smart, happy dog, inquisitive, and above all he’s by our side always. Nothing makes him happier than to see one of us coming, not even food. Not. Even. Food. That’s quite a thing for a Lab.
He’s made a Bodhi-shaped place in my heart.
#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever