Thursday, April 28, 2011
Make it as easy as possible for your dog to be successful. Don't be afraid to use a food lure to get the behavior at first - a little help is perfectly okay. Reinforce easier steps such as looking at you or taking a step toward you. Make sure the distractions aren't too big and/or too numerous at first. For example, practice in your front yard before trying it in the park.
2. Use higher value reinforcement.
Pick an extra scrumptious treat or other activity that your dog will do back flips to earn. He'll be more likely to respond in a novel environment when the reward is worth the effort of ignoring the distraction. The interest will often change from situation to situation so have a variety to pick from.
3. Set realistic expectations.
Your dogs age and breed will play a part in your success rate. One year old Pearl the Poodle may shine when a ball rolls by but 6 month old Barney the Beagle will likely have big trouble when a squirrel crosses his path.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Mystic Whirlwind of Dunewood
12/16/98 - 9/01/10
Griffin pestered, pounced, and offered play bows making every effort to elicit play from Bentley, to no avail. Apparently, Mr. B learned well from Caitlin and wanted NOTHING to do with the bothersome little rescal! However, in typical Bentley fashion, he handled Griffin in a much more gentlemanly way. He tolerated his antics until he could tolerate him no more and just got up and walked away. As you can see from the photo Griffin adored Bentley and would often seek him out for some cuddle time. Griffin was successful in cajoling Bentley into play from time to time and wherever Bentley was, Griffin was not far behind as he followed B everywhere. As I started Griffin with training it was an interesting process. Since Bentley loved training, he wanted to be present during Griffin's sessions. That was fine with Griffin because, as it turned out, Bentley was quite the teacher without even realizing it. If Griffin was puzzled as to what I expected, I quickly noticed that he would look at Mr. B and whatever behavior he was offering Griffin followed suit. This certainly worked to my advantage as it helped speed the process along. From then on whenever Griffin was in doubt as to what to do he would often look to Bentley for direction. The closeness Griffin felt for Bentley made it very difficult for him when B crossed the Bridge. He experienced an obvious sense of loss and it's certainly a time like this when you wish you really could talk to the animals.
I won't go into the last months of his life as there were many highs and lows as we tried to diagnose his illness. We celebrated successes and agonized over uncertainties and in the end were unable to help him.
In tribute to Bentley and to help me through the grieving process, I held a memorial walk in late September to honor him and all those who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before him and to celebrate all of their lives. The walk was very meaningful, very peaceful, and very emotional. There were lots of hugs and of course lots of tears shed. We ended up at an ice cream shop since it was one of Bentley's favorite passions. Friends and former students attended and they've encouraged me to make this an annual event. The evening was warm but overcast. As the walk finished and we were saying our goodbyes, the clouds parted slightly and the full moon appeared. Prior to the walk I had read a poem called "I'm Still Here" and the last part said: " I'm the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine, and you'll see that the face in the moon is mine." So it was a timely appearance when Bentley showed his face that night.
The holidays this year were of course quite different and not so much fun. You see, Bentley loved Christmas, loved opening presents, loved the special cookies that I made and as you can see from the video, always made us laugh. This year Griffin was not quite sure what to do with the presents without Mr. B to quide him. Thankfully I have these videos and photos to remind me how much he enjoyed life.
All of my previous dogs were special and I've had a wonderful experience and connection with and love for all of them but Mr. B has left the biggest pawprints on my heart. I am blessed to have had him in my life and he has forever changed me in many ways. I'm thankful that he was able to touch the lives of so many people and dogs and be such a wonderful canine ambassador. Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on and on. God speed Bentley!
Please go hug your fur kids!!