Without guidance from the expert, banished from her property because of the dreaded parvo, we have made progress. Training sessions have become less frequent, though the routine remains pretty similar. Skills that remain since the beginning of time, from Bear’s perspective, are sit, down, stand, and circle. Skills from nearly the beginning of time are scent signals (pawing, doorbell, and the dongle), leave-it, nice-walking, and watch me. Skills introduced in the last two sessions pre-parvo include army crawl (Dec’s favorite), rollover, stay (Bear is nailing this one), nice-walking without leash, and go to bed.
Walks have been enjoyable for the most part. Aside from the occasional distraction of the dog across the street or the leaf in the middle of the sidewalk, Bear gets the mullet walk. If the leash is in the left hand, then it is all business. He walks at our hip, matching our speed, and sitting down when we stop. Impressive, I know, but keep in mind that he is getting clicks and treats along the way. When the leash transfers to the right hand then it is time to sniff and roam around a bit. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of this set up, but I see Bear looking back to check and see what hand the leash is in, and going to business or party mode depending on left or right hand.
During the walks we’ll stop two or three times and do some drills. This lets Bear know that reacting to commands is not done solely in the living room or our home.
The sidewalk repertoire includes sit, down, circle, stand, and stay/come. Of all these, “down” is the most difficult for Bear. Unless he sees or smells the treat in hand, he glances at me while I give the voice and hand command, and looks away in disinterest. If he senses the treat, then he will cock his head to the side, as if asking me what is this “down” word you say. I’ll repeat the command, lowering my hand nearly to the ground. This is when he usually makes it to down, putting a paw on my hand as he goes. Bear is best at the stay command. At home or on the sidewalk he’ll watch me from 20 feet, waiting for the okay to be released.
At the opposite side of the activity level from walking, Bear is spending more time in Declan’s bedroom at night. Dec goes to bed earlier than everyone else, and Bear will follow us down to his room, settling into his den under Dec’s bed. Dec tells us he moves between the den (under Dec’s mattress), the trundle bed, and Dec’s bed throughout the night. Bear will wake Dec up around five most mornings. Dec was low one of these times, but I think Bear is getting into the habit of moving around at five, and Dec is accommodating Bear, bringing him upstairs at that time, whether he is low or not.
Walking without a leash with the pointer clicker, and go-to-bed have not progressed. I’m afraid that we have missed the next step of these skills and he is learning something entirely different. For instance, the go-to-bed command is meant to get him onto the “bed”, which is a blue-foamy mat with paw prints on it, that feels like a yoga mat for animals. To condition Bear to go to bed, we lay the mat out and stand so the mat is between us. As soon as he touches the mat I click and give him a treat. At this point he goes into a sit before getting the treat. To release him from the mat, I throw some treats on the floor and say “okay.”
We have done this drill a lot. And now we say “Go to bed” as he approaches the mat. However, I think Bear may be conditioned to go to the mat only if it is between us. If I release him with treats on the same side as me, then he’ll saunter around, checking out what Ashley is doing, or look out the window. It was my understanding that if the mat was on the floor then he would automatically go to it, yearning a click and the treat that follows.
“Go to bed” is a crucial command for Bear. In school, at a restaurant, in a theater, or in a plane, the mat will be put down on the ground with the command, and Bear will plop down on it, staying there quietly until released.
Unfortunately, the pairing of a low scent and signalling for the scent has digressed. Pre-parvo Bear was a star at seeking the scent hidden in a pocket, tucked under a sleeve, or stuffed in a sock, and then signalling with either a paw or grabbing the dongle. Now Bear finds the scent most of the time, but he will mouth it, trying to grab it. We have had to go back to holding the scent sample in our hand, presenting it to him, and getting him to paw after. The dongle and door-bell signals have gone to the way side in the pairing.
Bear is very lackadaisical with this work, often times plopping to the ground or looking at his favorite couch while I try to engage him to pair. Heather and I have to remind ourselves and each other to keep it fun for Bear. It is very frustrating when he puts his head down. It feels like a personal affront. What we’ve found is that simply moving him to another room and giving him energetic pets and tussles puts him in a more receptive state.
Falling off the Cliff
Not sure why, but Bear has taken to making a couple of deposits in the basement each week. I am unwilling to accept that he is finding the basement a better place to poop than outside. He sleeps in the basement with Dec most nights. I cling to the hope that Bear is finding a second best place to poop.
Two nights ago Bear left a pile in the laundry room and one in the common room (both in the basement). After cleaning it up, Heather found a small piece by the back door. That small piece gives me hope that he was trying to get outside to the preferred spot. Unable to get outside, Bear found the laundry room, which probably feels like a good place to make a deposit to him. The laundry room has a concrete floor. In the middle of the floor is a drain. When the pump decides not to pump, then water spews from the floor drain. Though we can’t smell it, Bear might pick up some septic smells from times when the pump quit working. I am holding on to that logic. I do not want a dog that feels comfortable pooping inside.
Bear and I go to a lesson this afternoon. We are not meeting at Kristin’s place, but we found a park in between that we can meet at. I have a lot of questions about how we have been doing and what direction to go.