We had a second visit with Cooper yesterday, in which Russ and I got to handle him ourselves. Every Saturday now, until we bring him home, Russ and I will be driving from Portland up to Bothell, Washington to visit with Cooper and learn how to carry on the good work the trainers at the Academy of Canine Behavior are doing.
Last week, we’d learned that commands and corrections have to be delivered in a low monotone. No excited “Good boy” or “No!” Just very calm and quiet. Apparently, an excited tone of voice just turns up his Distract-o-Meter, and that makes it so he can’t listen to us.
This weekend, though, Cooper was pretty much doing what he was told. Russ and I, on the other hand, weren’t exactly sure what we were doing, especially when and when not to correct him. I would be walking Cooper and Jayme would tell me, “tell him no.” Then, while I’m walking, I’m looking at Cooper, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to tell him “no” about. Fortunately for all of us, the session was short.
When they first brought Coop out, and he first saw us, Jamie told him to sit, which he did. But then the whole time during his sit, he was shaking like a leaf, all over his body. It seemed like he wanted so badly to both obey the command and throw himself at us — that created some serious cognitive dissonance, so he just shook.
The experts at AOCB have come to the conclusion that Cooper can only think in absolute blacks and whites. So they’ve identified one right way to perform some of the commands. For example, no dancing with the front feet is allowed while executing a sit, and no leaping while doing a “right here” (basically a loose heel).
Watching Coop trying to control himself was both exciting and difficult to watch, especially since he was doing so well and we weren’t allowed to praise him with any enthusiasm. I can see that this relationship, at least for a long while, is going to be an exercise in self-control for all three of us.
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