Saturday, June 28, 2008

Graduation is only the First Step

Parker graduated from obedience class last night.

It was a tough night for dogs and humans. Everyone was a little bit crazy. Well, the dogs more than us, or maybe it's just my perspective. (Full disclosure: on rereading this post, I'm not so convinced that the dogs were more out there than the owners.) There was very little sitting on command. Stay went out the window. Heeling. Hmm, the teacher didn't even have us try that: she just demo'd it with the smallest dog.

Two of the four dogs were spending way too much time socializing. I admired the teacher's restraint, because I would have been in there much sooner telling them to break it up. Finally she couldn't ignore the rumble. But good thing that's she's the trainer. She took the trouble makers and separated them from each other so that they could concentrate on the class. And their dogs went with them.

Things calmed down somewhat, but if it wasn't a full moon, it should have been. Eventually the teacher decided to have us spend the bulk of the class on Sit/Stay with distance between the owner and dog. Parker took a few rounds to get the point, but actually managed to stay in place while I walked at least five feet away, turned and called him to come. We can't do anything fancy, like a flip turn or a finish (both designed to bring the dog back around to your left side in a sit), but by round three, he was staying in place. We discovered, also, that a decisive walk away from the dog is key to getting him to stay in place. When I hesitated, he popped up. When I marched away, he stayed in place. I hate that dogs are smart enough to smell fear.

Practicing Sit/Stay also provided the opportunity to see what a small rat terrier looks like when he is very pissed off. There is no more genteel way to describe this. The dog has his owner on the run and he knows it. After several attempts to get this guy to sit sit sit sit stay staaay staaaay (my older daughter taught me long ago that you say the command once, and then expect action or do something to enact the behavior) which failed, the teacher took charge. She kept sitting the dog back down when he popped up. A step away, an authoritative NOOO, then back to making him sit. Finally, the dog stayed, the owner walked away, and I wish that I'd had my camera. The dog was glaring at the owner, eyelids half lowered, lips curled, making very clear that he'd sit and stay, but damn it, he didn't have to like it.

Finally, the end of the hour arrived. The teacher gave each owner a graduation certificate and each dog a toy. I asked her to pick out the one that she thought Parker would like. And Parker loves it: the toy is a giant plush jack, like this. (Amazing that that there is a website that exists to explain how to play jacks. More amazing that this is a game from my childhood.) He loves this toy so much that he wasn't even interested in playing with the other dogs. He carried it around by one spike and could not have been more pleased.

And he's asleep on his dog bed right now, the toy sitting just beyond his paw, like a security blanket.

2 comments:

Cindy said...

Congrats to Parker and Mom!

Hannah said...

Heeeeeeeeeeey.