Oscar Learns to Swim

Oscar has a new favorite summer activity…swimming!  He has always loved the water, but unfortunately his manly bulldog physique was not built for it.  He learned quickly to stay where he could touch, or else he’d sink like an anchor.  BORRRRING.  Luckily they make doggie life vests and Oscar got one for his birthday.

This week was finally warm enough that I thought I could handle being in the lake.  So, off we went to Lake Harriet.  Oscar was reluctant to venture far away from where he could touch, but with a little encouragement he realized that he would stay afloat in his vest.  He was very brave, and was soon swimming circles around me!

Here’s a video of our little Michael Phelps!

 

The Graduate

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Bulldog remains uncertain on whether he will apply his basic obedience knowledge outside of the classroom.

This post is long overdue.  Oscar passed Basic Obedience 1 and we started Basic Obedience 2 right away.  We are almost halfway through.  There are still challenges, but he has surely improved over the weeks.  I’m very proud of how well he does in the class setting.  Still working on the real world application of it all!

Oscar’s Progress in Obedience Training

A few weeks have passed since my last post and I think it’s time for an update on how Oscar’s training is going.  I’m happy to share that the last few classes have been great and that Oscar has shown lots of progress!  Oscar now knows that when we walk out onto the training floor it is time to WORK.  He sits next to me and, for the most part, follows my commands and actively participates in the class without being distracted by the other participants.

Here’s some of what we’ve been working on in and out of class:

  • Heel – Oscar starts by sitting to my left side, then starts walking at my command while matching my pace whether it is normal speed or “slow heel”.  We practice turns to change directions and halt (slow to stop and sit).
  • Sit/Stay – Oscar sits to my left side and stays in position while I step out in front to face him.  He keeps eye contact with me, but does not move until I “release” him (this is called an “exercise finish” – where you touch the dog and praise him, letting him know that he has done a good job!).
  • Down – Oscar lies down to my left side, and stays down while I move in front of him, only getting up when I “release” him.
  • Motivational “comes” – Oscar starts at heel sitting, I tell him to “wait” then walk out in front 5-6 feet.  He stays in sit position as I walk out and doesn’t move until I call him to come.  The trainers have us make a BIG DEAL out of praising the dogs as we call them to us.  Most dogs are very excited by this – they run and jump and play with their handler…but Oscar was so tired that while I made a big fuss to call him, jumping and cheering in a high pitched voice “OSCAR COME!!  OSCAR GOOD BOY!!  COME OSCAR…OSCAR, OSCAR, OSCAR!!”…Oscar just very slowly sauntered toward me with his bulldog swagger looking at me like…”Are you serious?  I’m so much cooler than you lady”.  Everybody had a good laugh at this. 

We received a few compliments and thumbs up from the trainers.  They have pointed out that Oscar is doing very well and has really improved since the first class.  I’m really happy to share this update in Oscar’s progress and look forward to our upcoming classes.  I think he has a good shot at passing the class! 

Here is a short clip of our Dairy Queen run to psych ourselves up on the way to class.

What can I say, ice cream pumps us up!

Oscar Goes to Basic Obedience

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*.

Anyway…

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!
Reward him…now…NOW!
Don’t let him lead you!
Walk faster!
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.

Oscar’s Sunday

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On Super Bowl Sunday we went for a nice walk on frozen Elm Creek to Rice Lake before the game.  Oscar was off-leash for a big chunk of the time, and he did a great job of staying close to the group.  He loves being outside in the snow.  Winter is his season!  Here are a few shots from the afternoon.

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A quick stop for a treat from G-Pa.

A quick stop for a treat from G-Pa.

 

Oscar is eager to "help" in the kitchen as G-Pa makes Super Bowl quesadillas.

Oscar is eager to “help” in the kitchen as G-Pa makes Super Bowl half time quesadillas.

Oscar likes to relax in his bed after a big day.

Oscar likes to relax in his bed after a big day.

Oscar’s Birthday Party

Oscar's card and birthday bling.

Oscar’s card and some birthday bling.

Oscar turned one on January 25th, and the next day we celebrated with a birthday party for the little man!

Party hat on...ready to party!

Party hat on…that means I am ready to party!

Birthday balloons (they did not last long)!

Birthday balloons (they did not last long)!

And more balloons!

…and more balloons were at the party courtesy of G-Ma!

Custom Oscar cupcakes from Sweet Retreat.

Custom Oscar cupcakes from Sweet Retreat.  Chocolate on chocolate, chocolate and vanilla buttercream, and mocha.  They were delicious and so adorable!  They captured the little bulldog perfectly.

They even had the forehead spot!

They even had the forehead spot!

We took a trip to Bone Adventure to pick a toy.  He loves this weird squeaky chicken.

We took a trip to Bone Adventure to pick a toy. He loves this weird squeaky chicken.

Singing "Happy Birthday" to the guest of honor.  Then, he got to eat his dog-friendly cupcake (carrot cake + carob icing.

Singing “Happy Birthday” to the guest of honor before he devoured his dog-friendly cupcake (carrot cake + carob icing).

And here it is on video!

At the end of the day, the birthday boy was partied out.  It didn’t take long for him to crash.  What a great day it was!

Snoring away.

Snoring away.  Goodnight little love.

 

Oscar the Bulldog Plays Hockey

Oscar loves to play on ice.  He goes to the neighborhood ice rink or out onto the frozen lake where he runs and plays.  He likes to poke his nose around in the snow, crunch on ice cubes, and search for sacred treasures like a stick or a discarded water bottle!  He does well on the ice – a few slips here and there but he knows how to manuever out there. 

Oscar’s very favorite ice activity is HOCKEY.  He likes chasing the puck, and when he gets it he doesn’t give it up again easily.  Sometimes he will even run right out of the rink with it! 

One of the best days was at the G-parents house.  The neighbors have an ice rink, and Oscar was invited to play a game with the boys.

On the bench waiting for my turn.

On the bench waiting for my turn.

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And here is a video of the little defenseman in action! 

GOOOOO OSCAR!

Oscar’s Puppyhood in Pictures

Digging through pictures from Oscar’s first year…here are some that haven’t yet been shared.

Oscar's first trip outside.

Oscar’s first trip outside.

Baby O resting his head on a sibling.

Baby O resting his head on a sibling.

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Oscar’s parents Bo and Charley enjoying a swim together.

Oscar's mom Charley at their "family reunion" in September.

Oscar’s mom Charley at their “family reunion” in September.

Oscar's dad, Bo.

Oscar’s dad, Bo.

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