Preparing for “Treat Man!”
Sunday morning was unusual! At 6:45 AM we got up to walk Opie. I offered to walk Opie alone if Greg would clean the bathroom. Greg agreed, but Opie didn’t. Opie stood on Greg’s side of the bed, wagging his tail expectantly. He nosed Greg’s hand, licked him. It was clear that he was not happy with Greg staying at home for the walk. Okay now we’re both going. That was okay, except that I usually return from these walks completely exhausted. I need good quality time with my coffee and the cross word before I can bestir myself to do any significant work. Unfortunately, I was not going to get any leisure time this Sunday Morning. We had an early morning appointment with our trainer/animal behaviorist Larry B.
Weirdly, since we’ve gotten Opie our house has been a lot tidier than normal. The boys have kept up their end of the doggy deal. Their laundry does not migrate far from the hamper and little toys and things are no longer likely to show up on the floor. Fear of Opie choking on it or Opie destroying the toy seems to have created an obstacle free floor. Everything within Opie’s reach is in pretty decent shape. How many more reasons to love this dog can there be?!!!!
However, there are still some things that have to be done in preparation for our guest. Dishes must be washed, the floor vacuumed the furniture dusted, the clear coffee table cleaned. Oddly, there are little doggy footprints on the end nearest the window. I wonder how that happened?
I roust the boys! They vacuum and dust while I close myself up in the bathroom with the windows open and create my usual toxic cleaning cloud. Why is it that when it’s my turn to clean the bathroom, I’m wearing black? Yes, I am using a product that has bleach in it. The tub is clean, the sink, mirrors and toilet bowl are spotless! We finish tidying with an hour to spare. We have our coffee and breakfast and I jump in the shower and clean up minutes before he arrives.
We are eager to see Larry. He costs about $90 an hour, but as far as I am concerned he’s already earned the money on his 2 hour session with us. You may recall in a previous blog post Turning a Corner — Opie Loves Daddy! that we had some trouble with Opie in those first weeks. Larry is the one who gave us the advice that really turned the situation around. His phone advice turned Opie into a family dog and not just my devoted dog slave. I was happy and eager to find out what great advice and choice information he would impart to us.
Opie still has a problem with men. We’ve definitely got to get him over that. But first we’d like to keep him from barking incessantly and suspiciously people who come to visit us. Larry is going to help us with that and a few other things which will be chronicled at a later date.
It’s Treat Man!
Opie acted predictably and growled and lunged at Larry when we let him into the house. Opie was clearly outraged. The translation of his barks was pretty clear.
” Who the *&%# are you? Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!”
Larry was very calm and knelt down and let Opie smell his hand.
Opie: ” Yes, I smell you hand, you smell likes treats and one old dog and one younger dog and some other dogs that are not so close by. Yes, you smell good, but I’m not that easy, buster. I got my eyes on you!”
Opie quieted for a bit and finally contented himself with sitting under Greg’s leg and looking menacingly back at Larry. We offered Larry a chair and he sat down and pulled treat out of his pouch. Opie was quiet and came forward cautiously. He took the treat and let Larry pet him.
I should say that intermittently this treating continued throughout our conversation, but only when Opie was quiet and not growling.
I got my eyes on you!!
Opie’s self talk:” This guy has some tasty treats. He hasn’t tried anything yet. Hmm those treats sure are good. As long as he doesn’t try anything, I guess he can sit far away from my mom and dad. He better not move. Gee those treats were yummy. Mental growl, I wish I could just have the treats and he would disappear. I’m sleepy.”
Larry asked us lots of questions. He asked about Opie, about our family. He talked to the boys individually. I have to say I was impressed. So far Larry’s advice had been sound. He seemed to have gotten Opie’s number pretty quick and he was doing his homework with us to see what our family was like and how good we’d be to work with and maybe also what Opie’s relationship was with all of us.
We talked about leashes and walking and collars and food and treats. We talked about dog parks and dog behavior and Opie’s behavior and where it probably was coming from. We talked about Larry’s work at the South L.A. Shelter, the sad situation with rescue dogs in general and the need for more people to be better and more committed owners. He talked about his dogs. He would take them to the dog park after he left us.
Opie fell asleep almost under Larry’s feet during our conversation. He’d worn himself out being alert. He’d rooted around in Larry’s bag and found himself a big chew bone. Larry had taken it from him and given it back to him several times, until he’d finally been allowed to eat it in peace. He’d sampled a few more Larry’s treats during his good behavior.
Larry gave us our homework and a couple of things to work on. Opie already sits when asked 95% of the time. However, he does not stay at all. So we will be working on Sit and Stay for a few weeks before we have another appointment with Larry again. He taught us how to go about it. and clearly does not subscribe to the Cesar Milan dominance theories of training.
However, he’s not a full on positive dog trainer either. He seems to take a middle of the road approach, pulling what seems like the best advice from both streams.
We are to work with Opie inside the house where there are no distractions. He is to be on leash at this time. We will work on the sit command and treat for that. Then we will work on the stay command and treat for that.
How do we do the stay command? First, we ask him to sit. Then we tell him to stay and then we wait about 20 seconds before we give him a treat. We keep increasing the time that we wait and eventually we step back from him a little bit. If he gets up before we are ready we start all over again. We’ll have to do this for some period of the time every day. Since I started writing this particular posting ( yes, I take a few days to write them!), he’s can wait about a minute well for his treat. Essentially, that’s it. As he gets better at these commands we’ll move out to the backyard which is full of distractions! So far we are still in side. He’ is fascinated with the backyard!
I have a tendency to repeat myself and say the command more than once. This is really hard. You know how counter intuitive it is to say something once and WAIT for the creature or person to perform the command. My boys have trained me to say a command about 20 times before I see some action. Now I have to expect Opie to do it after I say it once. YIKES! That’s hard. I didn’t realize how well the boys had me trained. Maybe they might be interested in some sort of behavior modification profession. I didn’t even know I’d been trained!
We’ll see if I can learn this new trick!
The boys are really ready to get to work with Opie!
At the conclusion of our visit with Larry, Opie woke up. He didn’t bark at him, but let him give him a goodbye pet without incident. Opie probably isn’t Larry’s greatest fan yet, but that’s okay. We’re in this for the long haul! Wish us luck!