The puppies are sprawled out on the family room floor. They are exhausted physically and mentally. They should be. Koda and Summer have been hard at work learning manners and commands at their puppy training. This morning I had my first lesson with the trainers. I should back up and explain that initially I signed us up for a training where I brought the pups with my daughter. It was the socialization class that was helpful in learning the settle hold to calm them and in showing me how to introduce my puppies to other dogs. That is all that I got from that class (unless you count the eight pages of littermate syndrome the teacher handed me the first night). Needless to say, I decided to look into other dog training programs.
The training facility I went with is actually one with which I am very familiar. I boarded Dot and Kitty there over the past nine years whenever we went on vacation. The staff is friendly, the place is very organized and clean. I know the owners. So when I learned that they offered dog training, and I met with the two trainers to discuss options, this seemed meant to be. Last week Koda and Summer had their first week away at “boarding school.” I missed them terribly, but knew that they were in good hands. They worked individually, and then together, several times throughout the day. Then rested in between because learning takes a lot of mental and physical energy.
When I picked them up at the end of the week, they did not seem very different. In fact, they were kind of extra nutty, bouncing all over the place. The trainers had warned me that this can happen. Then Koda and Summer settled down and we had a nice long weekend together. Today I pulled into the parking lot for my lesson. The puppies were pulling me this way and that, tangling the leashes. We got inside the front lobby and as soon as the pups saw their teachers they excitedly wagged their tails and ran to their feet. This was a good sign, I thought.
Next the trainer asked me to sit on a bench and to watch what they had been working on. I sat there giggling because I was shocked at what I saw. It was as if a theatrical performance was on display, like when you watch your child’s dance class or music lesson. It’s like the puppies were trying their best because MamaBear was watching. Koda and Summer sat when asked to, not moving out of the sit position until the word “free.” She even tried to distract them by clapping and whistling. No budging. They sat waiting for the magic word. Then she walked each around with the leash, and they stayed right at her side. Then both at the same time. I was blown away. These two puppies looked like my aussiedoodles but they sure did not act like them. Then the trainer said, “climb.” They trotted over to a little cot-like bed on the side of the room. They laid there, watching and waiting patiently for the word, “Free.” We all made comments and laughed, I even pretended I was leaving. But Koda and Summer stayed put. I was shocked and proud at the same time.
Once they were set “free” by the trainer, we went outside for me to put some of this to practice. I did not expect the same results, so when each dog listened and followed my directions I was overjoyed. I rewarded them with praise and treats. We were given homework of what to work on. I half expected my practice sessions at home to not go as well. Again, I was wrong. Koda and Summer really listened to me. Now before you suggest we enroll in agility competitions, I should admit that we have only mastered the “sit” and “heel” while walking commands. There is still much more to learn. I was thrilled with this level of success, which boosted my confidence to be capable of training my two littermate puppies to have good manners. I love that the word that releases them from a sit/stay position or the climb mat is “free.” That is a word that can hardly be used to describe any of the costly things we have acquired in raising these two puppies, especially this training. I’d love to hear the dog trainers tell me that all these lessons are “free.”