So, today at dog class, Hershey was a star. I was really nervous because I knew that they were going to have to run to us with distractions. This means that Hershey would have to run to me (who's not that exciting) past a whole bunch of distractions like food and toys (way more exciting). Hershey loves anything that might, in some way, be edible. And by edible, I mean something that she could conceivably fit inside her mouth, chew on, and eventually swallow. If you read the earlier post, you know that this includes rubber lacrosse thing-ys and photos. At home, that category would include socks (preferably dirty ones) and an assortment of paper products (basically anything that was once a tree). Obviously, considering the large range of things that Hershey considers edible and the fervor with which she seeks those things out, I was nervous. In preparation for this evening's class, I took her on a walk this morning and Jesse took her out for a jog when he got home from work.
Fast forward to class...The exercise was not off to a great start because, as the instructor was laying out the "distractions," the piglet stuffed animal distraction started making noise. It was one of those cruel toys with an internal sound box which was clearly invented by someone who had a bad experience with children and is seeking revenge on parents everywhere. So the tiny instrument of torture started singing, and Hershey immediately snapped to attention. I guess she sympathizes with the parents because she clearly wanted to rip this thing to shreds. Eventually the thing stopped singing and the instructor finished arranging the circle which included the following (and I am not making this up): a horse hoof remnant, the evil piglet, a metal bucket, a dog stuffed animal, and A JAR OF DOG FOOD. Now, you all know how much Hershey loves eating things that are actually inedible. The only thing she loves even more would be eating things that are actually edible. This did not calm my nerves. So Hershey was the last dog to go, and the other dogs, in a fine show of one-up-man-ship, completed the exercise running closer and closer to the array of treats. Then it was our turn. Jesse held Hershey and I walked to a corner of the room which would put her path as far away as possible from the treat array. Then I called her...AND SHE CAME LIKE LIGHTENING ACROSS THE FLOOR!!! Not only did she NOT even look at the jar of food, but she also ran to me faster than any of the other dogs (not like we're keeping track or anything). On our second turn, we decided to trust her and took her even closer to the treats, and she still did the exercise correctly! It was like she had tunnel vision and only wanted to reach me, her loving mom...
Well, that or she could smell the kibble in my hand...
Hershey goes to my mom's house when I have to go to work (yay for free doggy daycare! and shout out to my mom!). Hershey loves it there and gets really excited when I pull onto my mom's street. While there, she gets to play with her best friend, my mom's Great Dane, Charlie. Hershey and Charlie have been best friends since I brought Hershey home. Anyway, usually Hershey's pretty good at my mom's house since she plays with Charlie and gets tired really quickly. This usually means that she doesn't have enough energy to get into trouble. Well, not today. Today, she decided to eat stuff. First, she pulled a thing from my sister's lacrosse stick off the counter and chewed it to bits. The whole time she was doing this, Charlie was whining and crying. Apparently he was trying to tattle and we didn't get the message. Later, she pulled a picture of herself off the fridge and tore that up. I guess she didn't think the lighting was flattering or something. In her defense, it was a picture of her looking kind of doofus-y, and I could see how she'd be mad that we used that picture as our moving announcements and sent it to all our relatives, but my mom's house is not the place for that kind of rebellious behavior. Our dog trainer said that she's entering her "teenage" years, so I guess I'd better start searching her room (crate) for drugs and lecturing her about boys. At least we don't have to worry about her getting knocked up.
Good news! Hershey won't have to be held back! Tonight was the first night with the prong collar on in class. Now, there were only four dogs as opposed to the usual six, and the ones that were missing are the most rowdy and rambunctious, but I like to think it was the combination of my amazing training skills plus the magical prong collar that allowed her to be the stellar puppy she was tonight. She aced all of the exercises. Jesse actually handled her for the beginning portion of the class (which is always sits and downs) since I didn't get off of work until shortly before class. Even though he's not her usual handler (because that would be me), she apparently did fine (although she did scoot during her sit; they're supposed to stay perfectly still). She also kicked Mannie's butt at the Rally course. Mannie (short for Manchester United) is one of our classmates. He's his handler's future English Sheepdog agility champion. He doesn't need a prong collar. His handler's not so bad, just a wee bit snooty, and he's actually really cute (although I'm not such a fan of the Pebbles Flintstone 'do he's got to keep his hair out of his eyes). During the Rally course (super fun dog sport: http://www.akc.org/events/rally/ ) Mannie broke his sit and didn't heel right; Hershey passed with flying colors. Again, where'd my real dog go?
Ok, so earlier I mentioned earlier that our obedience class instructor suggested a prong collar for Hershey. Today, I tried it on her for the first time. Oh man, that thing is wonderful. It's like someone took my wannabe sled dog and replaced it with some kind of dog that doesn't pull. I put it on her, and she didn't complain at all. No whining, no squirming, just sitting still while I put it on. Then we went outside, and she waited for me to lock the door. The automatic sits (sitting whenever I stop walking) were fabulous. Best of all, she absolutely didn't pull at all. I even had, like, a 20 minute conversation with another dog walker. The old Hershey would have had a cow, trying to greet both the person and the dog. The new prong-collared Hershey hung out like it was no big deal; she even laid down. She spent the whole walk in practically perfect heel position right next to my leg. I got to save all of the energy that I normally would have spent wrestling with her on actually walking, so we got to do the big loop. (We walk on a trail by the bay right by my house with several branching paths, we did the longest loop around today. It's about 3 miles).
We were thinking about repeating the beginner obedience class that she's in now, not because she can't do the exercises, but because she's young and she gets too distracted. However, now that she's apparently been replaced by a dog who listens (thanks to the magical prong collar), we might not have to hold her back. Now, I wonder if the prong collar will stop her from eating my shoes and papers...
So, as a responsible dog owner, I have, of course enrolled Hershey in training classes. She attended puppy class (and passed with flying colors), and now she's in the beginner class with the same instructor. Luckily, she's sort of the teacher's pet, so even though she's not that great at all the walking exercises, the instructor still likes us. It probably doesn't hurt that Jesse (the husband, not his real name, I've just always had a thing about that name, but anyway...), comes along to watch and ends up helping out with equipment and some exercises. Hershey is really great at the stationary exercises. She can sit and lie down with the best of them. She's not bad at being in heel position. Unfortunately, when I said before that she's not great at the walking exercises, I really meant that she pretty much fails at them. She pulls and gets distracted by the other dogs, smells, treats other owners have dropped, dog hair on the floor, etc. We do this one exercise where the dogs walk around all the other dogs to work on attention and walking. To keep Hershey from pulling and going to greet the other dogs, I let her gnaw on a treat that I keep in my hand. Mostly, she gnaws on my hand.
During class on Thursday, the moment I had been dreading happened. The lovely instructor suggested that we get a prong collar....Now, I'm not actually opposed to prong collars for any reason. In fact, I'm sure it's the right thing to do, and we already have one. I was just really hoping that Hershey wouldn't need it. I was hoping that my "stellar" training skills could keep her in line without the additional use of pinchy-ness on her neck. She's actually wonderful at home (and no, I'm not just saying that because she's my dog), and she is capable of walking with a loose leash. She just has some attention problems in class. I guess I should be glad that the instructor didn't suggest doggy Ritalin or something. Hopefully the prong collar works, and we won't have to hold her back. I'd hate for her to be the oldest dog in the class, made fun of by the other dogs for being slow, and stuck with that stigma for the rest of her life. Although, she'd probably enjoy the new selection of dropped treats and dog hair that would come with new classmates.
Ok, so I was trying really hard to come up with a cool, funny introduction explaining why I wanted to start blogging. I figured that I could just sit down and start typing. Apparently, this blogging thing is harder than I thought, since this is like draft number 3. All you seasoned writers are probably nodding your heads, and sighing, "Oh, newbies..." to yourselves. Anyway, I like writing and have a fair amount of free time, since I only work part time, so i figured I might as well hop on the bandwagon and start writing a blog.
Lots of people write blogs about their children. Or at least, it seems like lots of people write blogs about their children. Maybe I'm only reading the mommy blogs. According to my in-laws, I don't have any children, but they're only partially correct. I have one child, and her name is Hershey (not really, but my husband insisted that I don't use her real name, he's paranoid about being identified). She just happens to have four legs and is covered in fur. She's just as funny as other people's babies, and way cuter (but don't tell them I said that). She also doesn't cry and was way easier to potty train. She does whine.
Some day I would love to have actual human children. I do have a husband, so I'm, like, halfway there going the traditional route. Since he's in grad school, though, we decided that a practice baby would better suit our lifestyle than a real one, so four months ago, after lots of research, we came home with our beautiful, chocolate lab puppy, who we named Hershey. My husband, who did not come from a pet family, instantly fell in love, and sometimes I think he loves her more, although he denies this. Don't tell anybody this, but I have totally caught him baby talking her.
I currently work part-time in education, and he's working part-time as a consulting engineer while going to school. This blog is going to be like any other mommy blog, except that my child is a dog. I should clarify this. While I love Hershey (a lot), and shower her with love and affection, I'm not one of those people who puts clothes on her dog, carries it around in a purse, and doesn't take it to obedience class (although, she does sometimes sleep on the bed with me). I certainly realize that she is a dog, not my baby, even though we call my mom "grandma" (just don't tell my in-laws).