Happy days are here again

The terrors have 2 reasons to celebrate this week. First, it is the last week of school so there is a whole lot of snuggling and playing catch and tug in the boys’ future. The second, more immediately exciting reason to celebrate is that Haas is passed into level 3 of his training class.

We had no plans to try to test out of level 2 and hadn’t even attempted some of the requirements but my Haas was a big enough bum to pass! This was the hardest level for Percy because there was always so much interesting stuff going on and he wasn’t physically capable of leaving my side for 2 seconds. Haas, on the other hand, just wanted to lie down and didn’t care if I walked around him or did cartwheels across the floor. I’ll take it, though.

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Haas on his way to get his celebratory cheeseburger for passing his test. His head hits the roof of the car. 

Haas is difficult to work with/train because he isn’t food driven. At home, I can get him to work with a little peanut butter or some commercial treats but not outside the house. We’ve tried all the dog treats, bacon, beef jerky, popcorn, string cheese, and hot dogs. They last about two bites. The only thing that works in the actual training class is Chex Mix. This works for me for a few reasons. One is that I would much rather smell Chex Mix breath in the car instead of dog breath. Another is that I can steal the rye chips. Of course, when I come across them, the other handlers probably think I am eating dog treats instead of my dog eating human treats. Oh, well. They already think I’m nuts for having a horse sized dog.

Wonders never cease.

Percy shocked me this weekend. I didn’t think it was possible to shock me due to his weirdness or for him to do what he did.

We only have 4 or 5 weeks left in our 6 month obedience training package. With this package, there are six levels. Due to his rambunctious reactivity and intense prey-drive, I believe it was realistic to assume he would never make it to the off-leash levels (4, 5, 6).

But… It happened! Percy was promoted to level 4! I was rendered speechless as half the class cheered for him. To be fair, some of them may have been happy to not have to deal with this dog, but one lady (on the 3rd dog she was taking through the same group class since Percy started) diplomatically told me how she remembered when Percy first started and how much he improved. He’ll now get to join his Malinois buddies who aren’t scared to train next to my embodiment of chaos.

To celebrate this amazing surprise, Oldest Child and I took Percy for a hamburger. Normally we don’t do junk food for the boys but this was a special occasion. After both his tummy and ego were fed by those golden (arches) workers, we finally started the long drive home. I think the perpetual motion puppy had a good day.

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I’m too tired for a picture, mom. Let’s just go home.

 

Attitude is Everything

When I tell people I teach high school students, many people tell me they are sorry or give some unnecessary praise for dealing with teenagers. It seems that attitude is the main complaint for those people. It’s true that teenagers can have some overly negative attitudes but I often think it is the expectation of negativity that makes it more noticeable or maybe worse. Teenagers can actually be quite wonderful and full of hope and love and laziness and inspiration and punkishness. I have often written that I like my dogs because they remind me of my kids. It’s easier to train the dogs, though. When they want to refuse or be hateful, I can’t understand what the dogs are saying.

I know that when I am having a particularly rough day with students, I get better results if I let my kids know that I lack patience and am not doing well. I try my absolute best to have as few of those days as possible but I am only human, just like the kids. They can hear and understand that it isn’t that particular class’s fault that I have used up all of my patience and I hope they see that I struggle sometimes, just like they do. I want them to see that even when I struggle, I have to push through.

When I am working with training the boys, though, I can’t make them understand that I am frustrated or impatient and it probably isn’t all them. I know better than to try to work with them when they have broken into the kitchen and eaten half a package of sweet rolls or ripped another blanket to shreds and spread it all over the back yard. It’s the little bits of impatience that I can’t explain to them and have to remind myself that this isn’t the time to work on our homework. Our trainer regularly reminds the class that we have to be in the right frame of mind to be effective when working with our dogs.  I get so caught up in “I have to do this right now” that I sometimes cause us to go backwards.

Today was good though. I set a time to work with Percy and did something relaxing for about 15 minutes before. It took a minute for us to work together but instead of getting frustrated, I was able to laugh when Percy started his “heel” position in the wrong spot. Normally when that happens, I guide him in a teardrop shape to the right spot. I cocked my head to the side (a weird habit I have before I correct him) and just as I was about to correct him, he maneuvered himself in that same teardrop pattern with a little extra hop at the end so he actually jumped into place. I don’t know if I should fix that or not, but it made me laugh and remember that training can be fun when I let it. I’ll ask the trainer Saturday about his weirdness but the rest of the homework went beautifully. He still had his challenges but that’s okay. There were more successes than challenges so I am calling it a day.

Since I wasn’t annoyed or impatient, I added a little time to work on training Drake. It lets me see how far Percy has come because I have forgotten what to do in order to get Drake started. He doesn’t know those basics that Percy does. It doesn’t matter though. Drake always has a good attitude. I thought doggie grins weren’t a thing until I met Drake. I have never seen a dog look so happy. The only time he doesn’t look happy is when Haas gets tired of Drake’s nonsense and sits on him.

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Can we train now, mom? I am so happy! Are you happy?

Drake picks things up much faster than Percy does. Maybe he isn’t as hard headed as Percy. Maybe it’s Drake’s better attitude than both Percy and I have on most days that makes the difference. He can be my inspiration as I try to get half a million things done this week.

I would love to be able to bring my happy boy to see my teenagers in the fall and especially when attitudes all around get a bit rough in October and April. You can’t be unhappy when you look at that grin and I don’t know how anyone ever let Drake go. I am happy to have been lucky enough to snap him up.

We are (going to be) the champions!

We made it!

I hope I get to say that at the end of the week.  I know I made it through year 17 of teaching high school students and I am confident that Percy will make it through level 2 of training this week.

Of course, being irrationally superstitious, now I am sort of afraid that I say this and Percy will choke and we will be stuck in level 2 of training for another 6 years. I’ll still love him either way, but I would buy him a cheeseburger if he would just pass this test without deciding to claim a cone or scratch his scruff. Part of what makes me nervous is that we will be there on a different day, at a different time, and with different dogs. The practice run at the local pet store went beautifully yesterday so I am optimistic enough to share with my 10 whole followers.

Percy doesn’t seem to be nervous. He has made his way through a stuffed hedgehog, a squeaky toy, a blanket, and he is currently trying to eat a throw pillow. Obviously, he isn’t losing his appetite.

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Tasty

This (potentially false) sense of security has me contemplating the other canine companions. Which one do I focus training on next? Maybe I should put it up for a vote.

One one hand, Haas is ginormous. He is probably scaring the neighborhood since his head is roughly the size of a beach ball. He also seems to think that concrete is a great snack. I wish that part was a joke. Instead, we have to replace the ring of concrete around the neighbor’s fence because Haas keeps breaking off a chunk and bringing it in for a light snack. He also tries to jump up on people and sit on the back of the sofa like some weird cat/parrot. The jumping isn’t so exciting and frequent for immediate family because we are all a little vertically, um, limited. When average height (or the occasional tall) people come over, it’s like he is yelling “my people!” and going in for an embrace.

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Haas says “Pick me!”

On the other hand, we have Drake. Drake has really been coming out of his shell in the last few weeks. In some ways, it is wonderful. He can be so sweet and happy to see me and then the next he is launching himself off of the couch to take Haas down. He also throws tantrums like a two-year-old whenever I work with Percy on obedience training. He barks, howls, pulls in his crate cover and shreds it while slamming around inside his crate. Fortunately, our training sessions are short. Maybe the extra love of hand feeding and one on one attention won’t create a monster but make him “chill” which would be “fire.” (Just because school is out doesn’t mean I can’t keep working on my vocabulary — unless my kids and siblings are in the middle of an elaborate practical joke. In that case, good for you for being persistent!)

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Drake was too busy gnawing on Haas’s leg to ask for your vote.

So, if you feel like it, drop me a note and place your vote! Do I focus my extra time in the summer training Haas or Drake next?

What’s one little letter?

There are 23 1/2 days of school left for this year. Mentally and emotionally, the kids are done and I am done. We will power through and finish writing papers (and grading), presentations (and grading), final novel projects (and grading) and all of the clean-up that goes with this time of year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel but it won’t be bright enough for another week or so for the kids to get their rears in gear.

The kids will make it. I will make it. Eventually, Percy and I will be full time training students.

We are going to spring for a private lesson or two, and go to every group class we can sneak into before the trainers catch on that we are repeats. I think we can wear disguises and use some of Percy’s nicknames.

On Tuesday nights, I will wear contacts and a ball cap. I’ll let Percy roll in the dirt so he looks part black lab and part dust bunny. I will refer to him as Linus.

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Percy almost always carries a blanket around, so we call him Linus. He answers to everything.

For the Wednesday afternoon class, I will wear one of Oldest Child’s cosplay wigs and put Percy in an argyle sweater. He will be Perseus the dignified.

For our typical Saturday class, I can wear my glasses and Percy can get a bath before hand so he is going as himself. Maybe in his way our geriatric-sloth-like progress can become more middle-aged-turtle.

I did see some of this progress over the weekend. The boys shared a banana and I was lazy and put the peel on an end table. Drake decided he was still hungry and entered stealth mode to hide on the couch and enjoy his contrabanana contraband.

Since I have long conversations with/at the boys, I was explaining while I headed to the kitchen that they had consumed enough of a snack and didn’t need a banana peel. At “peel,” Percy ran to my left side and walked right next to me. He even sat when I stopped. It took the entire trip to the kitchen before I realized Percy wasn’t after the peel. Percy heard “heel” and was actually doing it!

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I’m going to put a banana in my treat bag for class this week. Heel/Peel…whatever works.

This action, while a wonderful victory, confirmed my strong suspicion that I am the hold up on training, not my slobbery sweetheart. Those extra lessons are actually for me. Bring on doggy summer school where I don’t have to be the one grading!