About a week or two ago, a colleague of mine reminded me of a nonprofit in the area who was offering some dog training, so I checked them out. Paws with Love is an organization which provides schools, hospitals and clinics therapy dog interventions with their clients. I’ve been interested in getting involved, so a great way is for Bernie and myself to go through the training.
Our first day was on Monday, well, Bernie’s first day was this past Monday. I attended an orientation the week before and found out some details of our 8 week program. I also found out about some of the other dogs in the group and I was curious about their previous training. I did like how the trainer expressed positive reinforcement and explained about the particular type of temperament they were looking for in a therapy dog.
When we pulled into the parking lot, Bernie was all perked up. He was eager to see where we are and what we were about to do. I didn’t let this distract me from knowing what Bernie’s triggers are and I made sure to be his eyes for them. Bernie has a hard time around unneutered males. Maybe he’s jealous 🙂 or maybe he has a difficult time being around a dog with that type of energy. Wouldn’t you know, we were walking to the front door and this Great Dane who was still intact moved in front of us. The Great Dane turned his head around to see who seemed to be sneaking up behind him. Bernie locked eyes and his body froze. I was already anticipating his reaction, I quickly moved Bernie around the other side of me and I was between the Great Dane and Bernie as we strolled through the door. Phew, I was not interested in dealing with an issue the first moment of the class.
The next maneuver in the gauntlet (at this point, just trying to get us checked in) was moving past an American Bulldog. I also know this is a hard breed for Bernie too, so I quickly assessed another way around and quickly and happily brought Bernie to the other side of the room. Bernie seemed preocuppied with the newness of his suroundings, so it didn’t really phase him, but I saw the other dog and he definitely noticed Bernie.
We settled down and I saw how overstimulated Bernie was in a new surrounding with MANY different surroundings. He began whining and wanting to meet everyone. I practiced his commands and he was able to redirect his energy towards me. I also think it helped him in settling into the class. His lips were pulled back into a smile and he gave me some of his best attention. Bernie’s tail was high and constantly and freely wagging. He seemed to be the happiest in that moment.
We were evaluated on leave it and having our pups walked by different people in the group. Bernie was in his element, especially with the ladies. His ears were back, he’s grinned and his tail constantly wagged. On our practice round, one of the female evaluators came up to us and shook our hand and had a conversation. Bernie’s job was to sit there calmly. Well, Bernie jumped up a bit and we had a do over. Bernie learned quickly and remained seated and waited for a treat. So proud.
Next week, we work on recall. This will be our biggest challenge. Bernie is very cerebral. He thinks methodically about what his move will be when we call him over. It has to be very interesting for him, so I have to be the best thing for him in the room!