Before Austin and I left for church with Bo Sunday morning, I took Bo to our local community schoolyard for training, exercise and play. On the short walk from our house to the school, we practiced loose leash walking, as well as stopping and or sitting based on my body cues. I also worked Bo on pivoting.
Once we got to the empty school parking lot, I let go of the leash and worked on heel work using only voice control. Once we reached the schoolyard, I unhitched his leash, gave him his free command and threw his frisbee. The schoolyard's large open field is a safe space for him to get exercise and work off leash.
I love the early morning time I spend with Bo outside. I get to reinforce trained behaviors, as well as have fun with him. In a couple of weeks Austin will begin taking Bo to school. Before they leave each morning, I'll train, exercise and play with Bo like I did this morning. It's not only fun for him but it's a way for him to get his 'beans out' as Helen says.
When we got to church, Bo settled at our feet in the pew. In the past, when Austin has taken Bo to mass, Austin’s repeated standing and sitting throughout the mass confused Bo. He is trained to follow our body movement, so each time Austin stood, Bo responded by standing. On Sunday, we cued him to stay before we were about to stand. He quickly figured out he could stay settled even though we were moving up and down.
Bo did break his place mid mass. Austin's first reaction was to tell him to go down. I reminded Austin that Bo may be alerting and to wait and watch. After a few seconds and a yawn, Bo paw swiped my leg. Austin checked and confirmed his high alert.
When we went up to receive communion, Bo ended up backing his way out of the pew rather than turning around and walking straight out of it like in this picture. Turning in small confined spaces is now on our list to train and practice. Backing out wasn’t a big deal but it exposed a hole in our training. So, we will work to fill it.
During mass my thoughts drifted from the liturgy to the boy and pup sitting next to me. As I watched them in the space, I couldn’t help but think about how far they've come. There was once a time in church when Bo barked at our priest when Austin was getting communion. No barking this Sunday — just a calm, settled and focused pup doing the job we’ve worked so hard to train him how to do.