Friday, July 5, 2013

Premature Obedience Training Review

Margot’s mood and behavior have improved a good deal since my last post.  Luke has been sleeping on the couch with her at night and, so far, we’ve only had one incident of destruction.  I went downstairs one morning last week to find that they had ripped all of the stuffing out of one of our throw pillows, and there was blue stuffing EVERYWHERE!  This isn’t the first time they’ve done this, though.  I purchased four of these throw pillows several months ago when we bought our new sofa, and they’ve been ripping them apart one by one.  We now only have one pillow left.  I’m not upset about it, though.  I mean, they were nice pillows, but pillows are replaceable.  Besides, I’d much rather they destroy throw pillows than my new sofa cushions. 

Anyway, I’ve stuck to my guns about not adopting a third dog right now, and Justin seems to be okay with that decision…for now.   I know he would love to go get a third dog right now if I would let him, but I keep telling him to just hold his horses and try to look forward to having a new puppy in a few years instead.  I think the fact that Margot hasn’t been acting as sad lately is part of the reason why Justin has stopped bringing up the subject of getting a third dog.  We’ve also been watching Frank a lot lately (Zach and Kristy are currently on a camping trip), so it kind of feels like we have three dogs right now, anyway. 

So, the main reason I’m posting today is to talk about Margot’s obedience classes.  As you may recall, I gave a 6-week review after she graduated from the first half of her 12-week course at Petco.  At that point, I said that I recommended the first six-weeks of classes , especially to new dog owners, because they teach some pretty basic, yet important, commands and lay a good foundation for building your dog’s ability to learn and follow more advanced commands.  I still stand by that recommendation; however, I don’t think I’m going to be so eager to recommend the second six weeks of training classes, and certainly not the full12-week package.   Mind you, we still have three classes left before Margot graduates the full 12-week course, so it’s possible that my opinion could change over the next three weeks, but as of right now, I would recommend taking only the first six weeks of classes.

The main reason why I’m not so thrilled about the second half of obedience training classes is because 12 weeks is a LONG time to keep going back to Petco week after week.  Quite frankly, we’re burnt out.  Not only that, but it doesn’t feel like we’re really learning anything new anymore.  We didn’t go to class a couple of weeks ago because we were grieving Sam, so I thought we were going to have to arrange a make-up class or something.  However, it turns out that the only thing they learned that week was “wait,” which is almost exactly the same command as “leave it,” only it involves walking through a doorway instead of leaving a toy on the floor.  We open the door, then body-block Margot so she can’t run through the doorway, and we give the command, “Wait!”  Then, eventually, we stop body-blocking her, but only if she’s not trying to run through the door.  Finally, after she’s waited for a few seconds, you give her the release command and let her go through.  We tried it for the first time at Petco last week, and Margot got it right away.  So, I told Claire that I didn’t see the need for us to schedule a make-up class, if that’s all they went over. 

During the first six weeks, we would learn two to three new commands at each class and barely went over anything we learned at the previous class.  Every now and then, Claire would have a sort of pop quiz to see if we’ve been working on the commands learned in the previous classes, but then we always moved on.  During this six weeks, however, it feels like all we do is go over everything we’ve already learned, and we only learn maybe one new command per class now.  Sometimes, we don’t even learn a new command, we just sort of expand on one that we’ve already learned.  For example, I believe that today Claire is going to have us give the “sit” and “stay” commands to our dogs from the other end of the aisle, instead of while standing right in front of them.  I guess that’s a good thing to practice, but that seems like something we should just be working on at home.  I would rather Margot learn an entirely new command, rather than just keep doing the ones she already knows backwards and forwards. 

The reason why we initially purchased the 12-week package was because it was slightly cheaper than if we had purchased each six weeks of courses separately.  Plus, with the 12-week package you also receive two one-on-one sessions with Claire.  We’ve already used one of our one-on-one sessions, during which we practiced leash walking, but I can honestly say that it was only mildly helpful.  Don’t get me wrong, Claire is great.  She’s very supportive, and she truly cares about helping us train our dogs.  I will also say that Margot walked on her leash much better during our one-on-one training session with Claire than she does when it’s just me, her, and Justin, but I just didn’t feel like I learned anything new or made a real break-through with Margot as a result of that one-on-one session. 

I don’t know.  Like I said, maybe I should wait until we actually complete the last few classes before I give my final recommendation, but that’s just how I’m feeling right now.  At this point, if I had it to do over again, I would have only purchased the first six weeks of classes.

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