Wednesday, May 9, 2018

☸️ Blackbird's Bodhi, CGC

White Labrador Retriever with CGC ribbonMy pal and I completed his Canine Good Citizenship class last evening. He entered the class seven weeks ago as a well-behaved nine-month-old pup and finished two weeks into his rambunctious, adolescent period. It was a stretch through the final two sessions, but he got it together enough last night to pass each segment of the exam and earn his certification.

We had completed our Family Dog class just before the CGC/Therapy Dog class began. I’d intended this class to extend our work together and continue shaping his behavior, particularly in public. I’m happy to write that it accomplished both.

Each week we worked on improving Bodhi’s basics—sit, sit-stay, down, down-stay, and come—as well as teaching him not to pull while out for a walk. Our instructor taught a less-strict “loose-leash walking” rather than a strict heel. This last skill was one I’d never mastered with previous dogs.

The combination of a front-ring harness and a metal chain leash worked best for Bodhi, particularly the chain leash after he chewed through two of our nylon leashes and one on loan from Sally, our instructor, during a class session.

The harness goes around his neck, under his chest and up around his back. It has d-rings on his back and chest. Pulling on the leash while it’s attached to the chest ring results in turning him toward me, which reduces his urge a little.

He got his teeth around the metal chain once and realized he wasn’t going to pull me anywhere with it.

Bodhi’s most significant challenge had been around other people. We don’t have many visitors to our home, and our neighborhood is in a rural area with no sidewalks and few, if any people out walking. Kelly brings him to our shop in Warrenton where he greets everyone coming in the door, but she can’t always be right there to shape his behavior when he meets someone.

Sally recommended to the class bringing our dogs to businesses like Home Depot and Lowes, which welcome in dogs among the shoppers. Our first experience doing this was a tug of war between Bodhi and me, but after several classes and plenty of work, he was calm and well-mannered. The training was paying off!

One interesting behavior I witnessed at Home Depot this past weekend was the difference between the indoor store and the outdoor garden center. Bodhi walked right beside me while inside but as soon as we got outside he moved away to sniff at everything. As soon as we walked back across the threshold into the store proper, he was right back next to me. He has distinct indoor and outdoor behaviors.

We’ll keep working on his outdoor “loose-leash walking” skills.

Bodhi’s current challenge is other dogs, more-so over the previous two weeks than earlier in this class. Once we got into the training room and among five other dogs last evening, his excitement level spiked up from his usual from the walk over.

He went through the first set of three tasks—meet and greet, meet and pet, and meet and groom—with good behavior. Things went off the rails after that.

He got bored waiting for the next set and began barking at me. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would hush him up. We weren’t permitted to bring training treats to the exam, but they probably wouldn’t have calmed him longer than it took to swallow them, anyway. I took him outside for some quick exercise to avoid distracting the other dogs. We ended up doing that at least a half-dozen times.

In between each time-out, though, Bodhi worked through several required behaviors, such as walking among a distracting group of people and being held out of sight by a stranger for three minutes. He was attentive but not bonkers when a loud distraction occurred. He stayed with me as we walked past, then stopped and greeted another owner-dog pair. 

I have to confess my doubts in the midst of Bodhi’s acting up. He’d only begun this sort of thing in the last two or three weeks—I asked the instructor, “you do recall him being well-mannered when we began this class, right?”—and I had dreaded him not passing his exam in the week leading up to it.

During my wait out of his sight for the long hold, outdoors, I was looking up at the sky for calm and thought, I’m not calling this on him. I’m not telling them he’s not settling down. They’re going to have to say to me that he didn’t pass. They need to say the word “fail.”

A couple more minutes passed. This was Bodhi’s second try at the long hold with a stranger after he repeatedly barked halfway through the first. I hadn’t heard another bark. And then there was Bonnie, our second instructor, inviting me back in. He’d done very well.

It was the turning point in the exam for Bodhi—and for me.

Bodhi’s best behavior came toward the end when I put him in a stay and walked away. He sat watching me as I stopped, turned and waited, then returned to him. He sat calmly again as I walked away, stopped, and called him to me. He ran right over and parked himself in front of me.

Our last work was a simple walk on the lead where he stayed alongside, checking in with a glance every few steps, and made turns as I nudged him or called “this way.” We walked right up to the instructor, stopped, and he sat. Done.

Both instructors remarked to me after the exam that Bodhi is going through adolescence, acting out like a teenager. He turns eleven months old next week and does seem to have passed into a new phase of behavior; he can be very head-strong.

Bodhi wasn’t alone in acting up during the exam, either, but that wasn’t any comfort. I wanted my pal to shine, and we both had to work to accomplish it last evening.

We have much more outdoor and among-crowds work to do. I was encouraged last weekend when Bodhi wasn’t at all interested in the other people at Home Depot, preferring to walk along with me, look around, and sniff at things outside. He turned away from whatever he was nosing on the floor when I told him “leave it,” which is a critical command if a pill is dropped or he smells something interesting in the fertilizer department.

His focus now needs to be behaving when there are other dogs around, something we can work on when Warrenton re-opens the dog park on South 5th Street as well as during our walks on the Greenway and Main Street.

For now, we’re taking a break from training classes as Kelly and I begin summer travel. I’m considering signing up Bodhi for agility training in September or later, though. I’ve never done that with a dog, and it looks like a lot of fun for both of us.

He about gave me a stroke last night, but my boy came through. I’m very proud of him.

#Bodhi #LabradorRetriever #CGC