Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bonita & The Cheeto

Today Bonita is a bouncing adolescent dog with a happy tail. The last three months Kirt and I have gotten her to trust us. I’ve played positive and negative reinforcement games with her. She likes us. When we come home Bonita looks as happy to see us as her mother Blondie or Stormy does. She still does not want to be touched.

Yesterday I introduced Bonita to Cheetos, she loves these things. Before long she is taking them out of my hand when I held six inches away from my face. She would look directly at me as she reached for it. She was reading my body language for movement.

Once she was going to town on the Cheetos, I stopped giving them. You know how it is after you’ve had a handful of Cheetos. You must have more. Before long Bonita was circling our chairs trying to figure out how to get to the bag. It was so unfair, smile.

With my hand hanging over the side of the chair Bonita grabbed a couple more out of my hand. She was getting so confident. I put a couple on the floor just under my hand, slowly she gathered her courage. How her little teeth crunched the prize.

The next time she reached for the Cheeto, I gently stroked her back. She ran back no more than three feet, ate the Cheeto and then stretched. Initially it looked like she was coming back for another. She stopped, looked at me, looked at the Cheeto and then started an infantile sounding “rraaughrr”. She circled the chairs looking for a way to the goodies. She became so vocal, that she sounded like a chimpanzee.

Then Bonita took a drink of water, the Cheeto spell was broken. About ten minutes later, she is back looking for the Cheeto.

She takes it out my hand again; we are back to where we were before. She sees how I have changed my position so I can stroke her. She is having none of it. Bonita barks another puppy sounding, “rraaughrr”. She is chewing on her bed to relieve the frustration.

Except for the day we took her to the PetVet in Isabela to be spayed, we have never used any kind of force with her. She seemed to get over that quickly enough.

My agenda has always been the same, to get her to let me touch her. This afternoon I took a different approach, we just played. I’d give each dog a treat. The next round I’d give Stormy his treat, then Blondie. Bonita knew it was her turn. She started doing the things dogs do when they know it’s their turn. The eyes, the little bark, and then she put her front paws on my leg. Needless to say, I reinforced the heck out of that.

For a dog that was never touched in the first six months of her life, this is a pretty good victory. I’ll take it. In fact,”Woo-hoo”, she touched me. That’s pretty cool.

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