Oscar’s first Basic Obedience class started off a nightmare. I would say that it was right on par with other nightmares such as: all of your teeth falling out, showing up to school for a test and realizing that you are naked, or that one I had about Dakota Fanning*.
Here is a recap of our first class.
We showed up early so that we had plenty of time to be checked in. Oscar was overexcited (wow, new dog friends and treats everywhere!). He was jumping at everything and pulling me around like a rag doll. I made my way over to have a collar custom fit for his ample neck rolls. Again, he was pulling and jumping up at the table with hot coffee on it (what fun!).
After the collar fitting, I needed to pick out the leather leash required for class. This sounds like a simple task, but it was not. It was impossible for me to make it through the lobby while keeping him away from other dogs, which is one of the rules. It was a tiny room of complete doggy chaos, and it took all of my strength to hold my monster in position until the lobby cleared. Thankfully, one of the other participants saw my struggle and asked her husband to help me pick out the leash.
“I’ll take any one of them!” I called out, thanking him profusely while I wrestled with my monstrous beast of a dog. The guy shouted over the commotion, spouting off my choices – “okay we have pink, purple, teal…”…At this point I noted he was probably assuming that Oscar was a lady dog. I could see how it might happen as he was there with his wife, his little girl, and his own lady dog. He is probably used to automatically reaching for those colors. However, in order to maintain Oscar’s dignity in public, I quickly corrected him and asked for a more gentleman-friendly color**. We agreed on maroon.
Into class we went, Oscar pulling me with the force of an elephant out onto the open floor training area. He was going nuts. I think that he was under the impression that we were there for full-on doggy spring break party time like he has at daycare. I struggled to keep him under control while I prepared for class. It was so hard to calm him down. I couldn’t move, or do anything. By the time everyone and their dogs were out on the floor nailing the “heel” command, I was still in my coat and almost in tears. I was already thinking “Is it too late for a refund?” as I shoved my name tag away into my pocket.
One of the trainers jogged over to me, and I expressed the doubts I was having. “I don’t know if I can do this! I’m having second thoughts! I’m not sure this is for us!”. The trainer totally dismissed my whining (thanks, I needed that) and encouraged me to come out and join the class. He said that the only one who was apprehensive about this whole thing was me. He assured me that Oscar would follow my lead, so I needed to be the one to come on board. He offered to hold Oscar while I took off my coat and got myself ready to join. This small gesture was such a huge boost to my mental state. I threw my bacon treats into the treat bag on my hip and we joined the group. I was ready to DO THIS and be AWESOME!
I forgot my name tag in my pocket, but I’m pretty sure we couldn’t be missed. It was not a great start. It was actually not a good or even so/so start. It was u-g-l-y. Oscar did a lot of pulling, barking, and was behaving like a terrorist. He was very confused about what was going on. It was hard for me to manage him, and the trainer corrected me many, many times.
Don’t use his name!
Don’t hold the leash like that!
Don’t let him lead you!
You set the pace!
Put the treat in that hand!
Don’t put the treat in that hand!
Put the treat in your other hand!
Don’t hold the leash like that!
Stop using his name!!!
Boo, you suuuuck!
Okay, he didn’t really tell me that I suck, I lied about that, but I was corrected over and over again. It’s probably like showing up with your kid (who you have done your best to raise and are very proud of), to his first day of kindergarten and finding out that he is actually a dum dum. While the other kids are sitting in a circle obediently following instructions, your little heathen is running around with sharp scissors while giving himself a haircut. Then, the teacher (a complete stranger to you) tells you that you have been doing it wrong all along. It took me down a notch. I felt inadequate. (insert sad face)
This is what I’m working with.
Earlier in the day I listened to a discussion on the radio about failure. They were talking about how there are many examples of people who are able to work through their failures and eventually succeed at what they set out to do – even after failing many times over. On the flip side, there are also times when the success never comes, and when you must accept that you have truly failed. This conversation was in my head as I was beginning to feel like a failure to my dog while we were out there together on the floor. But, despite what I was thinking, my body was still going on auto-pilot as it went through the motions. After a few exercises (some successful, some not), something clicked in my brain, and I knew that it was FAR too early to deem this experience a failure. We were only halfway through our FIRST class! This was only our first try! I needed to stop acting like a total WIMP and just KEEP GOING! I can’t let Oscar down, for he is not a dum dum.
So, with renewed confidence, we kept going. We did a few things right and some things wrong. After we made one error, the lead trainer stopped us and got everyone’s attention to remind them to watch so that they could learn from other’s mistakes. I added that a lot could be learned from my bulldog and me. People laughed and said “us too”. I started to pay more attention to them and realized that they and their dogs were not perfect. They messed up, they were corrected, they looked just as confused and overwhelmed as I did. One woman told me that her puppy had failed Puppy Class, but they were going to keep trying. I now think the only significant difference between them and me was the sheer size and strength of their dog. Their dogs were easily corrected because they’re light weights, while mine is a 75-lb sumo wrestler.The important thing is that Oscar really did improve throughout the class. By the end, I had him under control and he was even actively participating! I was so proud. And we totally did better than that Vizsla puppy at the sit/stay exercise. No question about it, we were awesome. Ha, take that! Let’s just forget that on the final “heel” walk around, we struggled to change direction, causing a puppy traffic jam, and then were pulled out to create our own circle inside the larger group, walking in the opposite direction of everyone else while avoiding all eye contact with our classmates. It’s okay O, we’ll get there.
After class, the trainer who worked individually with us stopped over to chat. At some point in our conversation, he asked me a question.
Very seriously, he asked me this…
“Do you have rules at home?”
I wanted to laugh, but I realized he was completely serious.
Sure, yes, why of course sir. We live by one rule.
Our rule is that we live by Oscar’s rules.
At this point, I am hoping that we win the award for “Most Improved”.
Until next time…
*In this nightmare, I was arrested for the murder of acclaimed child actress Dakota Fanning. I pushed her off of a boulder. I don’t know why. Sorry Dakota.
**No offense to any gentleman dogs who wear pink, purple or teal.