Monday, November 28, 2011

Puppy Journals: Day 8 (Puppy Class!)

Yesterday, Omar got to walk on the ground outside for the first time. He got his final round of shots last week, and the vet said he'd be good to go and mingle by the end of the weekend. On Friday we signed him up for a six-week puppy training class that started yesterday, which was my only contribution to Black Friday. I'm sad to have contributed anything, but come on, it was $20 less.

Now begins the long process of teaching him that the awesome thing he's been doing on a pee pad 90% of the time is now something that needs to happen in a loud, strange, distracting, kind of cold environment. Yay!

Class went very well. We were worried he would be the only puppy, but two other dogs had signed up too. One was a big standard poodle puppy, and the other was a shiba inu. A big part of these classes is just socialization. Your dog needs to meet other dogs in controlled environments so he can learn how to behave around them. According to the trainer, throwing them into a dog park as soon as they're out of quarantine is not the best idea.

I have to admit I was nervous. What if that dog manual I'd been reading was, in fact, correct, and I'd ruined our puppy for all eternity? What if he was too stupid to learn the things we were going to teach him? What if WE were too stupid? What if he was the unruly kid in class, and we got kicked out because it was just easier without him?

Also, as a long-time cat owner, my assumption is that any time I take a pet outside he will immediately bolt away from me, never to be seen again.

All my fears were groundless. The dogs were excited to see each other, and Omar was able to figure out the three basic things we worked on. We've already had good success with sit, and her technique wasn't too different. We also started an exercise that will eventually teach him his name, and that when I say it he needs to pay attention. For now though, it just consists of showing him I have treats in my hands, holding them out to the sides, and rewarding him when he makes eye contact with me. The final thing was getting him to come to me. That took a little more work. Again, all you do is show him you have treats, then walk backwards and say "Omar, come!" When he does, give him a treat and say "Good!" Our dog is laconic, to say the least. When he did come, he'd take a few slow steps, sit, and think about things. The trainer gave us a toy to use as motivation instead, and that worked for a few rounds, but then he slowed his roll again. I looked at the other two dogs sprinting across the store to their owners with just a pang of jealousy, but it's OK. We wanted a chill dog, and boy did we get one.

They got one good period of play time in the middle of class. Omar and the shiba played together first, then the poodle was introduced since he's so much bigger. The shiba was shy, but Omar knew this game thanks to Tommy. He kept trying to engage the shiba by popping up on his hind legs and pawing at him. The shiba mostly wanted to hang out by her owners. She slowly came around, then the poodle game in and all bets were off. He and the shiba started rolling all over each other, and Omar was doing his best to jump into the game. It was hard not to jump in when it looked like it was getting rough, but the trainer knew what she was doing and it turns out, so did the dogs. Having only compared him to Tommy though, I now realize Omar is a tiny, tiny little dog.

This morning was the first of our new routine. Where Amy and I both got up at 7:30, her to get ready for work and me to squeeze all the pee and poop out of our dog that I could onto a pee pad, now we're getting up so I can take him outside and squeeze that stuff out there. No success yet, but I am meeting my neighbors finally. They will all come to know me as that sleepy guy in pajamas with the adorable dog, who introduced himself as "Omar, let's go potty!"

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer.

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