Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 6

Sometimes people ask me, "How is Couper doing with his training?" My first instinct is to say, "Aren't you reading the Poop?" (this is what insiders now call this website). There are few things on the planet as well documented as Couper and his training. However, I generally give an overview of how he is doing, re-tell some of the "jokes" (They aren't reading it anyhow. To them it is as if I am coming up with all new comedy on the spot. So what if the line I just "thought up" went through seven re-writes the week before), and politely refer to the blog. This week it became apparent that there are two important people who are not reading the blog, or at least are not paying attention to the recurring theme.

Let's see if any of this sounds familiar:

As we walked into the Petsmart last Saturday for week 6 of Kindergarten, Couper was pulling on his leash and barking at everyone/everything. As we were supposed to be loose-leash walking, we had to stop every two steps to rein him back in. As we got in the store, he continued pulling on his leash and barking at the cashiers and customers.

I more or less have written the same paragraph every week. If it were a better or memorable paragraph, I could sue myself for plagiarism. However, that would require getting two lawyers, and that sounds expensive and annoying.

Let's continue our week 6 story.

Halfway between the cashiers and the classroom, we had to stop to try to calm Couper down. As Couper would not pay attention to us or even sit (remember, he "knows how to sit now"), we decided to get out the jar of Pupperoni to entice him. One look at the jar of yummies, and Couper was a new dog. He sat. He walked along side us. He did not bark at anybody.

At that moment, it kind of hit us. He needs the lure of yummies to be a good boy. Is this a new concept? Lord no. I write about that every week as well. So who isn't reading the blog? I guess Big Buddy and Couper's Mommy aren't.

We vowed next week to start with yummies in the parking lot. Hopefully next week, I can write a new opening paragraph.

I spent the better portion of last week's entry writing about attendance awards and plotting Couper's path to academic glory through attrition. Well, forget about the second part. The German Sheppard was back and the Affenpinscher was gone. Our chance to be Valedictorian is about done. However, we really do like having the German Sheppard in class with us. We get to learn what works with other dogs and try to apply it to ours. And the German Sheppard is having control problems walking into class as well. So with competition comes better learning. However, we do still want that Attendance Award. Badly.

For the record, Ms. Puppyteacher was there too. This week's first lesson was about combining loose-leash walking with other commands - in this case, sitting. We were to walk around the store and have our dog sit when we came to the end of an aisle. Hopefully the dog will learn to naturally sit when we stop on a walk. As we had yummies in our hand for this exercise, Couper did great. He even once actually sat on his own as we stopped. As Couper excelled in this exercise, Couper's Mommy commented, "He sure has been good in class lately." His Big Buddy commented, "What the hell am I going to write about in the blog when he is doing so good???"

Fortunately for blogging, there was a second lesson this week, meeting strangers. This exercise involved a stranger coming up to Couper, having him sit and then rewarding him. For the stranger, Ms. Puppyteacher volunteered a Petsmart clerk. At least we knew that the "stranger" was getting paid for this. I was not sure if the store clerks get medical insurance.

Amazingly, as the clerk approached Couper, he was calm. More amazingly, when asked to sit (using AKC approved hand signals), he sat. Couper's Mommy and I were shocked. He always is aggressive when new people approach. This was a minor miracle. The clerk then took the next logical step, pat the cute puppy on the head. Couper was not as OK with this. He nearly took her hand off. I guess that was pushing it a little too far. When asked if she would try this again, she politely declined. I guess they do not get health insurance.

As both Couper and the German Sheppard were having issues with coming into the store and
dealing with people, Ms. Puppyteacher suggested that we come into the store on off days to help acclimate our dogs to people and the surroundings. I guess having her say this in week 6 made me a little less cynical than had she said this in week 1. I understand that we cannot take our dogs into Neiman Marcus and have him adapt to people and surroundings (unless the dog fits in a hand bag, that somehow makes it OK). However, could we not go to the park, or on walks, or even Petco? Do we really have to go all the way to Petsmart? Should we pick something up while we are there?

Our homework for the week, besides shopping at Petsmart, is to get our dogs to politely "greet" other people. We can do this with people we know or with strangers. Being new to town, we do not know that many people. Based on what we saw earlier in the day, we are not sure that having them greet Couper is the best way to introduce ourselves. "Can you help us with our homework, all you have to do is pet our puppy...he hasn't successfully bitten anybody so far". It would be a lot easier to ask of neighbors if we lived near Ray J. Johnson, or Ray J. Johnson impersonators. (Maybe we do, who knows).

More importantly, the lesson for the week is to carry yummies wherever we go. Even if Couper is not around. Just in case. Kind of like the Sienfeld where Jerry puts the mutton in his jacket ("What exactly is mutton?" "I don't know and I don't want to find out") and Elaine - without knowing there is mutton in the pockets - borrows the jacket and dogs follow her everywhere. Maybe we can at least make dog friends in the neighborhood.

Maybe the most important lesson for the week is to read our own blog, so we don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Perhaps we will delegate that task to Couper.

Side Note: Last week I mentioned that we had 20 people over for Thanksgiving. How did Couper do? Great (there goes the comedy). He had met all the guests previously, so there were no surprises from either him or the guests. Once he gets over people coming in his house, he is interested in one thing only - playing. And play he did. For reasons unknown, we have an artificial turf putting green in our back yard. Well, that isn't entirely true. A known reason is that it came with the house. We are not really golfers, but we thought it would be a fun place for
Couper to run around. It turns out that he loves golf. When somebody tries to putt, he swoops in and intercepts the ball. He has great recovery time, because when you think he is out of the way, and you attempt another putt, he swoops in and steals that one too. With 20 people, including actual golfers and kids, at the house, the green was in use most of the time. Couper was non-stop in getting in on the fun. For the most part, people thought this was fun. However, Couper's eight year old human niece kept trying to get him inside away from the green. I guess he was ruining the integrity of the game. As I was in charge of the dog, I did get him inside a couple of times, only to have him run out and back into the game whenever somebody opened the screen door. I can only do so much. I was in charge of the football games on TV as well. At the end of the day, the humans who did cooking and organizing (not me) were exhausted, but nobody was more exhausted than Couper. After six straight hours of playing, he was a lump of puppy passed out on the floor.

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