Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Couper Goes To Kindergarten - Week 7

So we took our own advice from last week and re-read our blog before going to Kindergarten. Well, actually we remembered what was in the blog. These posts are way too long to actually read. Either way, as we recommended last week, on Saturday both Couper’s Mommy and I were armed with a handful of yummies upon pulling into the Petsmart parking lot. We intended to bribe Couper into good behavior from the start of his walk into the classroom. There was, however, one obstacle to our well thought out plan. Big Dogs? No. Traffic? No. Mailmen? No, but on the right track. Rain.

If you do not know, we live in the desert southwest. Couper is definitely a desert southwest dog. He does not like rain (or baths, or showers or water for that matter; although he will get into a baby pool in the summer). He does not like the cold. He does not like wind, especially cold wind. I do not know if he has ever seen any, but I would bet he does not like snow. He does, however, like sitting in the sun, even when it is 110+ degrees outside.

When it rains, Couper does whatever he can to avoid getting his delicate body wet. When he has to go potty, he faces a challenge. Get wet and do his business in the yard as he is supposed to or stay dry on the covered patio and risk getting in trouble for doing business where he is not supposed to. On Friday night, we told him it was OK to go on the patio (but definitely not inside). We apparently did not communicate that in a way that he could understand, as he paced the patio and looked at the wet yard for twenty minutes deciding where to go. When he could finally hold it no longer, he did eventually opted for the patio. Apparently it was better to risk punishment than to get wet. He of course did not get punished, he got rewarded, but this decision process went on all weekend with the rain.

One final note about Couper and weather. Last February we had the unique opportunity to move from Arizona to Michigan. It wasn’t unique because the Michigan job was ground breaking or involved a giant promotion. It was unique because I am pretty sure nobody has moved from Arizona to Michigan since air conditioning was invented (I think this is an official Census Bureau statistic, but I would not quote it). There were a lot of reasons for taking the job in Michigan. One of the reasons against going was Couper. We had a fear that he would not pee or poop between the months of October and May (maybe September and June). The thought of him ballooning up while in potty-hibernation was too much to take. While it was not THE reason we did not go, it was certainly in the mix. Yes, we love our dog too much.

So, the bottom line is it was raining and Couper does not like the rain. For a tough guy, he is very delicate. However, he is smarter than his Big Buddy who went out in the rain on Friday (no, not to go potty) and has been sick ever since.

So as we got out of the car at the Petsmart parking lot, we had a dilemma. Couper’s Gramma Buddy earlier suggested that we carry him to the door in a blanket. That is just like Grammas; always the most protective. I wanted to try our yummy-bribed-walk theory, rain or not. Couper’s Mommy offered the compromise: he could wear his little rain coat on the walk in. I am not big on dressing dogs, but I have to admit that his rain jacket is cute and does offer him some protection from the hated rain (it has a little hood for his head, but his hiney is uncovered - I guess so he could poop if needed). So we tried that. Loose leash walking went by the board as we all wanted to get in out of the rain quickly. As there were not many people in the parking lot, there was a minimum of barking. So, did our yummy-based walking work? Hard to tell. I think it was rained out.

In our mad dash inside, we did not get to stop outside and do our usual business on a sign, tree, or tire (By we, I mean Couper. Apparently there are civic codes against Big Buddies or Puppy Mommies doing their business outside). When we got inside, Couper clearly needed to go. Petsmart is a giant store. About half of it is dog items with the other half having cat, bird, rodent, whatever stuff. In the dog section alone, I am sure there are thousands of items. Not to mention all the floor and aisle space. So what does Couper decide to target for his pee? A stack of plastic stairs exactly like one we bought months earlier to help him to climb into bed. Of the thousands of items, he picks one exactly like something that sits in our bedroom? I am going to have to check the carpet around those stairs more closely. I guess it could have been worse. Since it is plastic (and his aim is rotten), nothing got damaged. At least we did not have to buy pee-stained merchandise.

This week was our last regular week of class and it was a review week. Talk of extending the class a week has died off. I think they have taught our puppies and us all that they can stand. The German Sheppard was again the only other puppy in attendance. Ms. Puppyteacher was there despite having to go to the ER on Thursday because a lab in another class injured her. Say what you will about Couper, but he has not sent Ms. Puppyteacher or Ms. Puppysub to the ER (to the bar, perhaps…). I think facts like that should count for his final report card.

For the past couple of weeks, Ms. Puppyteacher has been working with Couper to get him to not bark and lunge when something distracting goes by. To do this she has him sit, then runs by him with short loud steps. The first time she does this, Couper goes into attack mode. She quickly turns around and yells, “Uhhhhhhhhh Uhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Couper stops in his tracks. The second time she runs by, Couper goes into a less enthusiastic attack mode. She again turns around and yells, “Uhhhhhhhh Uhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! The third time she runs by, Couper just sits there. That is exactly the point of the exercise; the only problem is that we have to repeat this three step process every week. We were supposed to practice this at Thanksgiving with his oldest human niece, but we did not have a chance. He was too busy chasing all the activity going on around him. Hmmm, I guess this problem is on us.

We learned a new concept this week called target. The way it works is you hold out your hand at his nose level, say “target”, wait for him to hit your hand with his nose, and give him a reward from your other hand. As I understand it (and I don’t), it is a variation or extension of the “come” command. Couper loves “target”. “Hit a hand with my nose and get a yummy??? Cool!!!” He was great at “target” in school. Couper’s Mommy has even had success at home getting him to “come” using “target” (again, not so much with Big Buddy, he looks, takes a few steps, then continues barking at neighbors). I am waiting for a breakthrough from the scientific community to be able to compare how much Couper loves “target” the command against how much Couper’s Mommy loves Target the store.

Most of the class was review on stay. Ms. Puppyteacher has said that since Couper (and most dachshunds) will not do “down” (lying down, see week 5???), he can substitute that with a twenty second “stay” on the final next week. Great. I hope the calculus section isn’t too difficult either. Couper is not good with “stay”. I am sure that part of it is his natural ADHD. I am definitely sure the other part of it is our inability to understand how to teach “stay”. How do we reward him while he is doing nothing, when the act of rewarding him has him do something, but we are rewarding him for the nothing? Then we have a release word? How to reward that? It seems that we have to reward on the release, I think. We had a little success in class, but Couper got tired and distracted.

Big Buddy: Sit

Couper: {Sit? I know sit! I get a yummy for sit!!! Especially here in this big yummy barn! I should do that!} (sits)

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {Stay? What the heck is stay? Hey, he’s got a yummy in his hand. Would he give it to me already?!? I’m sitting right here Big Buddy!!! Just like you asked! Hey there’s my mommy!!! I wonder if she has a yummy too? I’ll go look…}

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {Again with the stay? What’s that all about?? Oh yeah, my Big Buddy has a yummy!!! I should look at him in case he gives it to me! Why is he slowly backing away??? I’m back here Big Buddy!!! Maybe I should follow him…}

Big Buddy: Stay

Couper: {This stay crap is pissing me off! What does that even mean??? Does my Big Buddy still have a yummy??? I can’t see! He is too far away! Forget him! Look, there is some dog food on the shelf! That looks good!}

Big Buddy: Stay!

Couper: {What did Big Buddy say? I bet it was that stay nonsense! Who knows? I’ll go see if my mommy has some yummies!!!} (gets up and walks towards Couper's Mommy)

Big Buddy: Uh Uh!

Couper: {Uh Uh? That’s not good! What did I do??? Hey mommy!!! Do you have any yummies for me??? Big Buddy is acting strange!}

The German Sheppard? He was a pro. Ms. Puppyteacher was purposely distracting him with bags, passersby, and puppy talk and he still did not move. He can do “down” and stay for 20 seconds. We definitely have our work cut out for us.

One bright spot is our homework explicitly said, “For next week, dress nicely and bring your camera for graduation.” If Couper was not going to graduate, I think we would have gotten a homework sheet that said, “For next week, dress like crap and bring one of those Men in Black memory erasers to forget you ever took this class.” I am taking this as a good sign. Then again, it is forecast to rain again next weekend.

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