Today it was rainy a good chunk of the day, so instead of going outside Kender had to stay in. He found his favorite riding toy and did laps with that for most of the day. He snuck off into the back room a couple of times, and he climbed into empty dog kennel several times, but on the whole he seemed much happier than he has been the past few days.
Jeremy talked a lot more today about how we are going to gradually get the dogs to want to come over to our kids when they are kicking and screaming, or just doing something else we don’t want them to. First we have to mark our children and the behaviors for the dogs, to make them super appealing. When Kender screams or kicks, we move right in to give A’Kos treats, especially if he doesn’t move, and we try to lure him closer to Kender with the treats when we can. When Kender is being good and happy, we encourage him to give A’Kos treats. We get excited with A’Kos whenever Kender comes near, saying, “Look, it’s Kender!” and petting and rubbing him. When Kender does what we call turtling, where he curls up in a ball on the floor and refuses to respond to anybody, we put treats on his back or side for A’Kos to eat off him. Sometimes that gets Kender giggling and moving again!
We worked more on distractions and on walking close. A’Kos has an extra step to learn with us because we want him to walk on our left side, so that with Brian he is not on Brian’s blind side. To do this, we are retraining A’Kos to use “close” instead of “heel” to walk on our right. A’Kos is such a smart dog, he is picking this new command up very quickly, and despite some apprehension from Jeremy he seems to distinguish between “close” and “A’Kos” just fine. A’Kos is learning very well to stay with us, and successfully ignored treats and balls on the floor and even Jeremy’s own dogs as they bounced and ran through the room after treats Jeremy threw at them. We dropped his leash and walked away, let other people walk around him, and even took turns stepping over each other’s dogs…and all the while, the dogs stayed where they were given a “down” command until they heard “free”. It really is amazing to me to see this!
Another command we learned today was “place”. This command goes along with a mutt mat or floor pad that can be rolled up and taken wherever we go. When we give the “place” command, A’Kos will go to his matt and stay there until he hears “free.” We can use this at home or while traveling, or at Foster when we are there all day. 4 Paws gave us a first “place” matt for A’Kos, and Kender really likes it. I’ve even caught him using it as a blanket this evening!
At the end of the day, it was time to bring A’Kos back to the hotel with us for the first time. We had to bring back food, bowls, the mutt mat, and The Kennel. (I capitalize that because this thing is so huge I still have trouble with the scale of it, sitting here in this little hotel suite.) The Kennel was so big we could not get it in the car, so another family who came with a pickup truck offered to carry it and follow us back to our hotel. Thank goodness!
Although we are not allowed to take A’Kos into public yet, the hotel lobby does not count as “public”, even at mealtimes. This evening we got to bring A’Kos to dinner with us. He behaved wonderfully, coming in at “close” and calmly going “down” behind the table, waiting while we got food and ate. Then, the most amazing thing happened, something that still makes me a little teary hours later. Usually, when Kender loses interest in his food, he’s done with sitting at the table. In a restaurant or hotel, that means he’s off and running, out the door or getting into trouble. When Kender got up from his chair tonight, he wandered over to sit and lie down next to A’Kos, petting him and hugging him and using him for a pillow. This was so amazing to see, especially since Kender had been showing no interest really in A’Kos at 4 Paws.
After dinner, Kender seemed like a different boy. He was talkative and cooperative as we went shopping for ponchos, swift to get in and out of his bath, and not fussy when it was time for bed. We tried putting the mutt mat on top of the bed we got for A’Kos and putting that next to where Kender sleeps on the couch. We put Kender to bed, then gave A’Kos the “place” command. A while later, I noticed Kender had his hand on A’Kos. Kender petted him for a while, and I let him feed A’Kos some treats. When Kender hit A’Kos or pulled his tail, first I gave A’Kos treats, then I would “free” him, at which point Kender would declare A’Kos needed to come lie down!
Much as I can’t believe how well-behaved these dogs are, I can’t believe this bonding is really truly happening right before my eyes, so fast!
Tomorrow morning bright and early we do our first track, rain or shine. Probably rain–which is why we were shopping for ponchos tonight.