Rooney starts advanced training tomorrow, but the road to get there has not been without its bumps.
Take getting into the car, for example.
When the dogs are really young, the trainer lifts them in and out of the car.
After that, they get into the side door instead of the back.
That's because the trainers don't want the dogs jumping too far on their still-developing limbs.
They don't want any broken bones or torn ACL's.
When the dogs get big enough, then they start jumping in and out of the back.
The trouble is, Rooney decided, that he really liked jumping into the side door. And specifically into the driver's side, not the passenger side.
And he didn't want to change.
This has caused more than a little discussion and consternation over the past year or so.
The trainers have offered a lot of suggestions.
Reward him for putting his front paws up, then use hot dogs to lure him to come the rest of the way.
Nope. Rooney likes hot dogs, but not enough to jump into the car.
Teach him to jump onto other things, specifically, the couch, then transfer that behavior to the back of the car.
Nope. Rooney loves to jump onto the couch. That's his favorite place to nap now (did I mention that service dogs don't get up on the furniture?).
Don't give him any other options except to get into the back. That might work, if I didn't have to be at school before noon.
Rooney does not like to jump into the back of the car.
Every time Rooney goes on a stay-cation with another trainer, they always give him glowing reports about his behavior, except for one thing. He won't get into the back of the car. The last trainer even called me from a shopping center, and I thought I was going to have to go over there and help her put him in the car.
But then about two weeks ago, right after he had come back from his last stay-cation, I decided to try a new strategy. One that I thought of myself. Every time we went somewhere, I opened the back of the car, and just kind of waited a minute. When Rooney refused, I would really calmly open the back door and let him in that way. No big deal, we'll just try again the next time.
And then one day, I was at my mom's in Colorado Springs. I opened the back door, and Rooney jumped in, like he had been doing it his whole life. I made a big deal of it and gave him a "jackpot" treat (where the dog gets a whole, whole bunch of treats at one time), and he's been jumping into the back pretty much every time ever since.
He just had to do in on his timetable. When he was ready, he jumped.
And like always, I think about teaching.
I wonder how many kids are simply on a different timetable.
I can present the situation, and when they are ready, they will take advantage of it.
Sometimes, they just aren't ready when I am.