Monday, October 29, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 2

Week two started a lot like week one. Couper got his Big Buddy out of bed a few minutes early. We are not sure if he understands “Kindergarten”, but he generally sleeps in with me on Sunday mornings. If he was excited, he had a strange way of showing it. On the trip into PetsMart, he once again barked at anything he saw. Our “uh-uh” did absolutely no good. We told anybody who stopped and commented that he was on his way to behavior school. We were embarrassed to tell them that he already had a class.

Couper kept up his barking when class started. Once again, Ms. Puppyteacher had to go for the spray bottle. Once again, she hit my foot more than him. Actually, I think she hit the floor the most, my foot once, and Couper not at all. It got me wondering if that was the strategy. If so, bad strategy. Couper got as aggressive as I had ever seen him to Ms. Puppyteacher. She actually got down on the floor to confront him. “Uh-uh!!! I’m not scared of you”. “Grrrrr!!!!!!” I admire her courage, especially since Couper snapped at her a couple of times. She did not relent. In the end, he got the message (or got tired) and calmed down. She gave him a treat. Lesson learned? Nope, they went through the same routine at the end of class.

The final spray bottle tally at the end of the class was, German Sheppard, shot at once; Couper shot at every other time. At one point Ms. Puppyteacher even left the spray bottle on the floor pointed at him about two feet away as a passive deterrent. Couper was not all that intimidated. At one point, Couper went up to the spray bottle to lick the nozzle. He was either thirsty or doing the equivalent of hippies sticking flowers in National Guard rifles.

This week’s lesson was sitting. In week one, Ms. Puppyteacher told Couper, “Sit!” and he stood there looking at her (or more likely continuing to growl at her, I forget). She then said, “Obviously, Couper does not know how to sit.” She went on to some other point before I could defend my dog by saying, “But you forgot to say ‘with you hiney’”. Couper kind of knows how to sit. We have him sit before getting yummies and before getting dinner. In fact, sometimes after he goes potty outside, he comes in, goes to his mat near the sink, and sits to make sure that we know to give him a yummy. However, since Couper was little, his Big Buddy has “taught” him “sit with your hiney”. I guess as opposed to “sit with your head” like Mork from Ork. It mainly came from him squatting when I told him to “sit”. There is not much space from hiney to floor with a dachshund, but he was still able to keep his hiney aloft. So I added the phrase, “with your hiney”, to make sure that hiney hit floor. Does it work? A little, he knows to sit for a yummy. He has no idea that he should do it in any other context.

So we learned the AKC approved hand signal for sitting. We are not supposed to introduce the word “sit” until later. I knew Couper’s Mommy would not appreciate my asking when we introduce the words, “with your hiney”, so I stayed silent. Basically the hand signal for sit is moving your hand from your side to a 90 degree angle with your upper arm. Were you to include your other hand on your elbow, you would just about have the mob approved signal for “%@$& you!” Again, for Couper’s Mommy’s sake, I did not ask when we were going to introduce that.

To get our dogs to understand the sit gesture, we worked with them using food as an incentive. To keep the mayhem to a minimum, each group was sent off to practice in separate aisles of the stores. We picked the Ferret Aisle for Couper. It was a good choice. Apparently ferrets are not as popular as they were in the great ferret boom of the ‘80s (no reference available). We were mostly uninterrupted. In the course of training, Couper’s Mommy and I agreed to a kind of Living Will. If I ever buy “Ferret Nation”, she is allowed to shoot me. I think it is fair for everyone involved.

Couper did fairly well with the sit exercise. Basically we keep a yummy in one hand and swing it over his head (to the right angle describe above). As the dog keeps looking up, it can’t do anything but sit. Couper is good at doing things he can’t do anything but. When we want him to stop sitting, the keyword is “free”. Since he could do anything but, he was not so good at that. He just stopped sitting whenever he got tired of it. Good thing that is part of this week’s homework.

Other homework, and next week’s class, is going to involve “loose leash” walking. This is walking your dog without him or her pulling you like an Iditarod sled. If Couper were a Husky, he would be the lead dog. He has been pulling us on walks from day one. Side-to-side and full steam ahead. He does not do it all the time, but he certainly does it more than once on each walk. The solution: stop; wait for the dog to come back (loosen the leash) without pulling; mark with “yes” (and at times a yummy); continue the walk. The problem, we were taught, is if we let him get away with pulling once, it is like starting at the beginning. This is going to be difficult. Our homework assignment is to do this throughout the week. Next Saturday, upon bringing our dog in to the store, we have to loose leash walk, “even if it takes you an hour to get into the class. Come early.” Given Couper’s parking lot aggression, we may have to leave for our 10AM class at 4AM (including breaking into the Petsmart before it opens – can we use the “Ms. Puppyteacher told us to” defense?).

Another thing I forgot to write about in the week one entry was a running tally of stuff we buy at Petsmart upon leaving. (I know what you’re saying, “how could you forget two things – running tally of purchases and sitting - from week one when my eyes are still bleary from reading the 1000 words you typed in the week one entry?” First of all, my college English teachers did not litter my writing assignments with “Verbose!” for nothing. Secondly, the key to writing is to drink enough Jim Beam to keep things interesting, but not so much as to run out and forget that our “guest” vodka is nothing but paint thinner and nail polish remover poured into an old Smirnoff bottle. I didn't get to the point of drinking the “guest” vodka, but I did forget two key points. See, it could have been worse). Anyhow, in week one, we did not buy anything at Petsmart. I was proud of us. Although we do not buy our dog food there, Petsmart has plenty of things for people like us who from time to time might buy a thing or two for or resembling our dog. Or to put it bluntly, we have a million doggie toys, tons of treats, and a lot of dachshund paraphernalia (understatement). I am guessing Petsmart knows of people like us as they put the Kindergarten classroom in the middle of the store, right across from doggie treats and an aisle away from toys. This week we were not so lucky. The haul:

Dachshund stationary
Dachshund gift bag
Pupperoni (for his training treat).

As best as I can tell we are invited back next week. Maybe the purchases helped. However, I am pretty sure that Couper is on Double Secret Probation.

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