“Have You Got Your Mind Right Yet, Opal?”

One of my favourite movie lines is from the 1967 classic, ‘Cool Hand Luke’.  Boss Paul (played by Luke Askew) grinds away at Luke (Paul Newman) in the rural Southern USA prison, trying to break Luke by forcing him to dig a hole and fill it back up with dirt, over and over. Periodically, he snarls, “Have you got your mind right yet, Luke?”  Yes, I know. My pop culture references are a bit stale. Regardless, this one is useful today. Do not be alarmed. I am not culpable of forcing my dog to dig holes and fill them in, though I think she might enjoy the task.  I DO, however, perform obedience exercises on a semi-regular basis with Opal. We live in an apartment building which has long hallways and staircases galore. On quiet days and at quiet times, I take Opal on leash out in the halls and commence a rapid drill of  “heel”, “sit”, “stay” and “come”.  She LOVES it. Opal is particularly fond when I ask her to  “sit and stay”  and then I walk away slowly and summon her to the end of the hallway (75 feet away).   It thrills her to  “come” when she is finally allowed to bolt to me. The ceramic tile does not offer much traction, so she skids several feet before she comes to a stop.  There are no objects to cause injury, so it’s a safe and exciting blast.  Why do I do this sort of obedience drill?  It ‘gets her mind right’, in a good sort of way. Dogs (especially Guide dogs) love to know who is in charge. They develop a sense of security and self-confidence by performing obedience exercise drills. It is important to keep the drills interesting, rapid, and occasional. If you do them too often, your dog will be bored and the drill ineffective. These dogs love to please their handlers.  I find that Opal becomes very focused with her guiding job  in the days following an obedience drill. We are going to Toronto next week. I want and need her to be sharp as well as relaxed in the knowledge that ‘mum knows what she’s doing, and where we’re going’, even if I don’t have a clue. Air travel, airports and the frenzy that comes with it, might be a breeze for the seasoned  Guide dog team who travel frequently, but we don’t have much experience with this. So, preparation is key, and that includes an obedience drill today….to ‘get her mind right’.  

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