October 24, 2017

The Graduate

Henry graduated his beginner dog training course at PetSmart!

He loved the class, the three other students, and the instructor, who always had her pockets filled with treats. He loves PetSmart anyway, as it's one of the few stores he's allowed to enter with me, and he has good associations with choosing his own toys and treats from the shelves. The store is a 5-minute walk away, and he used to pull the whole time we're heading in that direction (we just learned Don't Pull). Sometimes I wish they weren't so much more expensive than Amazon . . . but they are. Often I find a 40-50% markup on most items.

But dog training class was a great deal. $116 for 6 weeks of classes, one hour a week. We went every Sunday at 3PM, and the three other families with their dogs made it through all 6 classes, too.

The instructor was upbeat and positive, calling negative dog behaviors "silly," and appearing to really be enjoying herself throughout.

Over the six weeks, Henry learned:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Come
  • Down (Lie down)
  • Leave It
  • Watch Me (Calm down and look into my eyes)
  • Drop
  • Paw (Shake)
  • Don't Pull
  • Yes (Approval of an action, apart from "Good boy!" which is used more for affection)

We worked at home on each week's lesson, but it was easy to incorporate the training into daily routine. Sit before going outside. Sit before greeting people. Watch Me when too excited. Sit, Down, and Paw before a treat. Stay and Come took more work, but Henry was thrilled to be doing these activities, and really responded to the boundaries and commands.

Leave It turned out to be one of the most useful things we learned. It's a command of pulling focus, which can be used with squirrels and other dogs and garbage on the street, when before he would obsess detrimentally.

For the final class, each dog was tested on his training. (Although graduation was guaranteed regardless.) Henry followed all the commands correctly -- except Down, which he doesn't like to do on cold floors, and the polished concrete of PetSmart definitely qualifies as cold. He's pretty bald on his underside, so I get that one. He's got Down down on a carpet, grass, or warm sidewalk.

So we got a diploma and this picture, which I love. The mortarboard hat and tassel are adorable, of course, but I'm constantly tickled by the look of yearning toward the future captured in Henry's expression. The instructor was holding a treat, but still that hopeful expectancy and promise in his eyes makes me feel uplifted and inspired every time I see it in the picture, which is hanging on the hutch of my writing desk.

Congratulations, Henry. You're a great canine citizen. The future is yours.


Good boy.

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