Our local library has a dog reading program for kids. The idea behind it is that children find it easier to read aloud in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Once a month five dogs go to the library where kids take turns reading a small book to the dogs. It's very popular with the kids, who like to collect the individual dog's "business card," which contains a picture of the dog, some specifics about the dog and a printed thank you.
Yesterday was Parker's first day in the program. I had signed him up for it as another step in our socialization program. He's getting much better around strangers, especially children. We got to the library with Parker's tail up and wagging as we walked through the parking lot. He wasn't on a heel, so when I stopped at the door, he didn't have to automatically sit. Except that he *was* supposed to sit and wait before I opened the door. The fact that he didn't I excused because it was a different kind of door -- when I whispered, "It's a door," his butt hit the ground.
We walked into the library and then into the room where we'd be listening to the kids. Dogs get there about twenty minutes early to settle in before the kids arrive. There are only five dogs on any given reading day and yesterday the dogs were a black lab, a bishon, a King Cavalier Spaniel, a terrier mix and Parker. The terrier mix weighed about three pounds and immediately went, barking and snarling, for Parker, who popped around behind me. The other two small dogs were being held high in their owners' arms and never hit the floor until the kids came in. The lab wanted to see Parker, and, with permission, the two boys greeted each other very nicely and did us both proud.
Then we settled onto the floor (I was promised help in getting back to my feet at the end of the program) and the kids came in.
Parker was a prince. He either laid at my feet quietly after letting each child run fingers through his topknot, or he stared intently at the child reading. When the child looked up from reading and smiled at him, he'd "smile" back. Only one child had trouble reading to him because he kept putting his head onto her book, which she thought was hysterical, as it was a book about a dog finding bones. One little girl showed up with a new cast on her leg, so she sat in a chair rather than on the floor, and Parker got up to sit next to her, several times resting his head on her cast (I asked if that bothered her and she said no). Several kids showed some hesitation about petting him and Parker just stretched his head toward them, and when I told the kids that Parker would be sad if they didn't pat his head, they did. (Parker seems to be the odd man out on that one, who likes having his topknot massaged.)
When we were done for the day and they brought the forklift in to get me back onto my feet, he was his usual bouncy self walking back to the car. His reward was a two hour play date with his bff -- a Golden Retriever who loves to play chase games with him in our backyard.
What a guy.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I got feedback from much better trainers about teaching Parker hand targeting. Most important was that, since I had taught the stay with an open hand, by asking him now to touch, I was confusing him. It's clear in the prior video that he was holding a posture instead of trying to touch my hand. So this time, I only offered two fingers, used a clicker and treats and did it without Emmy around. I think he got it.