Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Puppies and Perspective

[I leave this up. I take it off because it's about puppies not kids exactly, but I'm thinking that if we're really living without compartmentalizing our lives ... I'll just leave this up. If it makes you smile and you're encouraged, I'll be happy.]

This may be our last session of puppy class for a while. Can't find six classes in a row without a conflict. I was more frustrated than usual after classes last weekend which inevitably leaves me asking, "Is more better or is it overkill?" It's been almost a year of classes. This photo is almost a year old (Nyah- red collar, Ellie - blue). At 13 months old, still puppies I'm told, they resist having their picture taken but we try. Very much "still puppies!" I didn't put the beeping of the camera together with the beeping of the fence collar. That explains the camera shyness.


Past. They were very good at 4 months when we brought them home almost a year ago. They were very good at "sit" and a long list of well-trained-puppy-skills. But the first afternoon we left them with our 5 Red Cross Babysitter trained 16-25 yr old children, an hour into the afternoon, one of the kids called me in a panic:"The puppies wouldn't listen. They wouldn't stop fighting. " The best we could figure, they didn't know who was in charge so they decided it should be someone with four furry feet and they both wanted the job. When Mom was home they were better, but imagining myself home alone with two full grown dogs dealing with dominance issues, we signed up for classes.

Present. Friday night I took Nyah to class. (12 owners, 12 dogs - most either well-behaved or there to accomplish it) Nyah tends to get defensive in class sometimes. . .often . . . Ellie, on the other hand, wants to play - either mode potentially disruptive in a dog class. Mr. M calls them his "special needs" dogs because they're either perfectly on-task or "not even in the room" (not unlike ADD) . He knows them pretty well, we've been going since September. Throwing out all the excuses, they're dogs. They need to listen, even when they don't feel like it, so we keep working on it.

So class is a half hour drive each way, my car radiator is dying. Nyah's a handful in class most of Friday night but she did the most perfect heel pattern ever! She even passed "Leave it." (She's been known to snatch half the bag of jerky bait instead.)

Ellie spent the better part of her Sunday class either wanting badly to play or totally zoned out. "Sit? Mom, you never taught us that!" Sooooo frustrating!!!!

It's almost the end of class time and Ellie won't down-stay. She needed to go out. So I took her outside, somehow managed to slice my finger on the trash can, we came back in and I let Jenny take her. (Jenny's 17. She came to a couple of classes in September. She plays with them more than she works with them.) So, of course, Ellie heals, downs, sits, stays, (all in various combinations within about 3 minutes) and takes the jumps for Jenny. It's obviously me, not the puppies, and (be warned) trainers don't sell new owner personalities.

So Monday morning I work with each of them alone in the yard like I do every morning. Traffic, people walking, bikes, skateboards, sirens, no dog-walkers as far as I know) They're perfect, off-leash perfect. Both of them - every task from every class, even with minor distractions, off-leash-perfect!

Future. So, if they're wonderful at home and they know the stuff (most of the time) why do I feel the need to keep going to class? For the adrenaline rush when a certain dog looks like she's going to get away and eat someone else's dog? I don't think so! Growing my confidence in leaps and bounds? Probably. Addiction? Maybe. The addictive quality is the fact that one minute you've almost got it. Then it seems out of reach. The next minute you know you've got it, then you lose it again. Then they're so bad you wonder why you have puppies. Then you flat out succeed big time and you say, "I can do this!" and you go back for more. Or maybe it's the place where class becomes less a class and more a critique group to help you get where you're going. I have no clue.

More important, if Ellie and Nyah listen in that environment every time, they'll listen anywhere! (They'll ignore the dogs on the sidewalk.) And stewardship. . . Maybe someday they'll be agility dogs or tracking dogs or therapy dogs or reading dogs* (when they defer to strangers I've even momentarily considered schutzhund!) Not sure I'm that ambitious, except when they're bored ... You don't want two bored, intelligent** puppies. Trust me.

... a little past, present, and potential-for-the-future*** helps keep today in perspective if you're parenting or working with people, too. (We'll call the alternative whining and complaining) ... thanks for listening.

* Gary S. differs with me , but they really can't read.

**At class Sunday, when she wasn't zoned out, Ellie unexpectedly demonstrated her unique independent thinking skills. :)

*** don't know if all these websites are the best on the subject but it gives some substance for the word "potential"!

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