Constant diligence is needed. Letting unwanted behaviors slide just a bit, and we are paying for it immediately. We’ve been taking Bear on regular walks, which improves his on leash behavior, but recently I’ve been taking him to the river. At the river Bear doesn’t need a leash. So back on the leash at the end of the day walk around the block Bear yanks like he is readying for the Iditarod. Not ready for mushing him through the ice, I quickly change directions, doubling back on course, taking weird lefts and rights across the street as if I’ve been chugging the Schnapps all day. Bear is not amused, though he settles down, yanking less often and with less force, which my shoulder is thankful for. I may need some physical therapy in the new year.
So after noticing how quickly Bear loses a skill as repeated and basic as leash-walking, I figured it might be a good idea to go back to other basics. On the way back from the river we stopped at our local grocery store. And, no, Bear did not go in the river, so he his odor didn’t fill the store upon entrance. Looking back on the year and a half that we’ve had Bear, I realize now that I shouldn’t have been so eager to take him to the store while I shopped. The best setup is to take him through the store with the only task to make sure he minds his manners, and it is a lot easier to do this when not pushing the shopping cart and picking apples out of the bin.
Another “hind sight is 20-20” lesson I realize is to use treats to redirect. And I’m sure I’d been told to do this by multiple people, but for some reason there comes a point when I feel Bear is all filled up on treats, and that it is time for him to learn, and if he isn’t learning then punishment ensues. And I realize now that this is the point that dog-training books say to take a deep breath, leave your dog at home, and enjoy being without him. Lucky for Bear “punishment” involved multiple sits, stays, and downs. And looking back, it is so clear the misplaced use of basic commands for punishment. Hopefully my lesson arrived in time to salvage Bear as a service dog. We tour the store without a cart, without anyone else, and with a pocket full of treats. We swerve ever so close to the nose-level chips, and I give a yank and a “leave-it” command when Bear looks to snatch a bag.
Bear remains calm walking through the store. And he learns quickly to look away from anything enticing, looking to me for a treat instead.And he re-learns this each time we go to the store. So I’m not sure how he so quickly loses the leash-walking skill. Could it be that his line has been bred for seeing-eye-dogs for so long that he wants to lead during the walk with a certain amount of tension on the line?
And may next year be one without chewed up library books and shoes and textbooks from school. And may there not be four-pound Costco-style salami eaten, nor giant Tillamook cheese loaves. And may the loaves of olive ciabatta left on the counter remain there for the humans in the house in the coming year. And may the new year not experience bags of bagels taken and eaten from the pantry, nor lunch-size chocolate milks taken and consumed from the pantry. And may bike helmets be used to protect skulls rather than be used as a chew toy in the new year.
Happy New Year.
While Declan and I battled with remote control helicopters, Bear signaled by pawing Dec. And Dec was 59. After properly celebrating the signal, Dec said that Bear signaled him earlier in the day when he was in fact low as well. So two live alerts in a day.
I noticed Maggie poured herself a juice while she was fixing breakfast. After asking her, she said she was 77. Bear had been eyeing his bowl of food at the time, looking at Maggie a bit, but certainly not moving in for a signal. With a little direction, he went in and pawed. Not sure if that is Kosher, but I gave him some hot dog bits for it.