Coffee finished his last obedience class this past Thursday, and Ethel has a couple more Saturday sessions to go, so she'll be done by the end of the month. They have learned all the same things—sit, wait, stay, down (well, Ethel doesn't do "down," actually)—but the instructors have slight variations in how they teach and recommend that these behaviors be reinforced. So it's a lot of details to remember (or forget, mostly), and it means that on walks, when I've got at least a couple of dogs on leash, I usually feel that I should be doing something better/diffferent with them. Even so, I'm pretty pleased at how they are both doing. I can usually get them to drop what they're doing/smelling and give me their attention, which is key to managing their behavior.
Coffee's class was through Bravo Pup!, and we adore his instructor, Paul. I think I want Paul to be my life coach, because I'm convinced he could get me to do anything with positive reinforcement and bits of hot dog. He's one of the nicest people I've met in a long time, and he's incredibly generous with his time and attention. We're glad that he's offered us the opportunity to keep working with him on Coffee's, uh, issues. (In common chihuahua fashion, Coffee can go ballistic—just barking, but that's bad enough—at people or other dogs with very little apparent provocation.)
Last summer, shortly after Coffee came to live with us, we had a couple of private sessions with Sandi, the owner of Bravo Pup!, which gave us the basic tools for managing his fear/aggression/assholeness/whatever. We found out at the time that the little dude gets really excited and happy when he's asked to work, and he's good at it. We were surprised, to be sure. His reputation at the shelter was that of a frail old sad sack who just needed a quiet home to spend his last days in. He actually has a big, kinda dominant personality, and he thrives on attention. We learned early on that someone taught him the "shake" command, but this year by chance we found out that he also knows "high five!" We're quite amused by this trick. Probably no one else would be.
So the formal obedience class with Coffee is mainly about sharpening up his and our skills. Coffee has everyone in class convinced that he's a timid little shrinking violet; he's only let loose with the full-on barking a couple of times. Since the class is full of bigger dogs, I can't blame him much.
Ethel also has everyone in her class convinced that she's shy, which is not the case at all. She's a gregarious rowdy girl who does get out of line on occasion. Once she jumped up on the couch and stole a bite of cheese roll right out of my hand. It was a delicious cheese bun from Acme Bakery, and I really didn't feel like sharing. And of course dogs are not supposed to get on the couch or steal food. Ethel and Lucy came to us with no obedience training at all, it seems. They are housebroken (Lucy not perfectly, I'm afraid), but they didn't know any basic commands.
Dogs usually pick up "sit" very quickly, but it's taken us weeks to get Lucy to sit reliably on command, maybe because she's so low to the ground. She's good at other commands, though, like "touch (my hand)" and "watch me." It's pretty surprising how much intelligence dogs can demonstrate when you ask it of them.