Friday, May 26, 2017

Making the Grade

Sami represented Team Bristol and Team Sam at our Puppy Preschool Graduation.

A few weeks ago, I was so excited to realize it had been a very long time since the puppies had had an accident. And by puppies, I mean Bristol. Sami has been housebroken for weeks now. Woo-hoo. Bristol, on the other hand, does really well for a spell, and then things go south.

Out of the blue, Bristol's crate was wet one day, and then he peed in the middle of the floor during our last puppy class, and he woke up the next day with a wet crate again. It turns out he was having another bladder infection. So, for now, we'll hold off on doing the Happy Dance for his being completely housebroken, but boy, have we come a long way in other areas.

Just kidding. Bristol does a pretty good job of staying when I ask him to wait.

We have much to celebrate! If there were such a thing as puppy report cards, these guys would be getting some high marks. They are pretty quick to understand basic commands. Both of them have learned SIT, DOWN, and WAIT.

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

Bristol has mastered walking on the leash without pulling. He will SHAKE on command. The day he gave me a high five was a day to celebrate!

Sami is a pro at ringing the jingle bells on the doors each time she needs to go out, which has cut down on Bristol's accidents immensely, so THANK YOU, Sami. What a good girl!

Something both of them are still working on is recall. When I call them, Bristol will usually come right away, but sometimes I have to resort to dropping a handful of kibble in a metal dog food dish to get their attention. When they hear that, they both come running. Usually. Like I said, we have some work to do. 

Another skill that needs more opportunities for practice is being calm when we meet someone new. Whew. Right now, they are just ecstatic to meet folks, and pull on their leashes, leaping and straining to get a closer look. Their enthusiasm is almost embarrassing, but most people seem to understand they're still puppies.

Puppy Kindergarten graduate.

Sami and Bristol have earned their certificates from Puppy Preschool and Puppy Kindergarten. We learned so much in those classes. The Puppy Professor saved my sanity these last few months. We've gone from having absolutely chaotic dinners, to being able to talk to each other while the puppies are on their mats on the floor by the table. 

Our instructor shared good information on how to shape the desired behaviors we want our puppies to display for a specific situation. That seemed easy enough; I wanted them calm and quiet during dinner. 

Practicing "park the puppy" with Sami at puppy preschool.

Bristol and Sam like being near us, and not in their crates while we're eating, so at first, we "parked the puppies" on their mats. In other words, we put their leashes under our feet, restricting their movement. When they stayed on their mats quietly, we dropped "kibbles from heaven" to reward them. They caught on quickly, and have been delightful mealtime companions, most of the time.

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

Sami has stellar behavior during dinner. Chuck doesn't have to reward her often, and she is content to stretch out, and relax while we eat. 

Bristol is all about the treats. He stares at his mat intently, waiting for the next kibble to land, or else he will look at me mournfully, and whimper. Sometimes he has been bold enough to "high five" me for attention. I'm trying to ignore him when he does that, and just reward his quiet behavior, but it's hard. He's just so adorable, and he makes me laugh. 

We're happy with the puppies' progress, but know our teaching and training is not done until Bristol and Sami become the cool, calm, and collected adult dogs of our dreams. For now, we'll be patient, and just enjoy them while they're little. 

As a teacher, I never liked assigning grades. I'd like to give Sam and Bristol both an A+, but realistically, I know they are performing just above average, so they've probably only earned a B-. I did like setting goals with my students, though, so I'm looking forward to checking things off as they mature and learn. It's all about progress, isn't it? 

I have to say, I'm enjoying being a teacher again, even if I only have two students in my class, and they're just my little pups. 

Photo Credit: Dylan Waters

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