The meeting with Mark, our prospective behavior/training consultant, evidently has turned someone's opinion around. She has undug her heels and uncrossed her defiant teenage arms.
The three of us sat in the living room to talk - Mark told us about the philosophy of Sit Means Sit. Booker clambered onto the sofa and curled up quietly right behind Samantha, his muzzle up against her thigh. Booker sighed and fell asleep.
"He's obviously a very sweet dog, with a calm, loving disposition," was Mark's observation. He listened to Booker's history. "The one thing that you have to know is that dogs live in this moment, going forward," he emphasized. "Booker doesn't hold grudges. He isn't still angry at you about the kitchen towel. He has forgotten that he bit you. You have to go forward."
Mark talked for awhile about dog behavior in general. Booker may have had a tough start, an abusive past life, starvation and fear, but he is well-cared for now, his stomach full, his bed soft. THIS is Booker's reality, and he needs to be taught, with no hesitations, how he needs to behave to conform to OUR lifestyle today, going forward.
Sit Means Sit uses non-forceful (no yelling, no punishment) verbal commands with a stimulus collar -- very light attention-commanding "buzz" almost like clicker training. Mark gave Samantha and I a demonstration with his dog, a giant German Shepard. Astounding. That dog was regimented, perfection, frightening ... we don't need Booker to be that kind of dog, but 1/4th ... gee ... 1/8th of that would be a gift.
As everyone who knows dogs has commented, Booker is testing us constantly, pushing around his will for premiere pack-position and trying especially to bully Samantha. She is a sweetheart, a gentle soul, a lover of small rodents and lazy cats. Booker is really new territory for her and she needs to learn how to interact with him, as much as Booker needs to learn his boundaries.
Some observations from Mark included:
- Booker was a hunting dog in his prior life, he had a rigorous job. He needs a NEW job ... he is a dog with a temperament modeled and calmed by knowing exactly what is expected of him.
- Aggression within the "pack" (family) is NEVER acceptable
- Booker should obey every command without hesitation
- Everything in the house -- food included -- belongs to the leaders, and he is allowed to have it only with permission. That includes a beef fillet laying on the coffee table. (Well, maybe the countertop, hahahaha)
- Almost every dog is trainable, there is no reason that we should not expect that Booker cannot have perfect and trustworthy behavior at all times
- The humans have a lot of work to do --- that would be US
P.S. Thank you everyone for your encouraging and insightful comments. Our family team really believes that when you make a commitment, you make it and use all the resources you have to make it work.