Sunday, January 13, 2013

Graduation "Deferration"

Today, Steven and I took Apple to his training class at PETCO for what we expected would be his graduation. We even took some pictures beforehand to commemorate the event:

Yes, sometimes I humanize my dog. I'm a Dog Mom.
I wondered to myself if it was bad luck to take the graduation pictures before we had the certificate in hand, but I reassured myself that I too took preemptive grad photos and I ended up just fine. Maybe I should have thought again. Apple's trainer forgot about our class and went out of we had our own personal training session (which he aced) and then left with some free treats and another week to wait for graduation day.

Apple first started taking a training class at PETCO in October. He got to start in an advanced class because he already knew the basic class commands, and he was doing really well. In four weeks, he had mastered many commands such as "wait," "leave it," "down," "stay," etc. Then, two weeks before our would-be graduation date (November 11) our trainer stopped working at PETCO and we had to wait for the new trainer to be certified.

The interesting thing about the new trainer is that she was waiting on her PETCO certification, but she already had experience training attack dogs. We finally got to start with her in December, but the holidays delayed our graduation even further, and the month-long break we had to take from class caused Apple to regress a bit in the areas that we didn't fully master. Because of that, we attended more than just 2 more classes. We did 3 or 4 before we got the green light to graduate today. 

I should be happy though, because Apple is ready to graduate, and he will be ready next week, too. The main thing he had to work on with the new trainer was loose-leash walking or "heeling" which he was terrible at, and was completely necessary because he is so heavy and strong. There have been many times I thought he would pull my arm out of the socket pulling me on his leash. By doing a combination of different tactics from pushing him up against a wall (not so fun) to luring him with treats (much more fun) we finally got him to walk appropriately and he is much better behaved.

He has learned a lot of valuable things in the class; its just too bad we had so many delays to actually finishing it. Luckily, the class is really inexpensive as far as training goes. We paid $99 once for the class and the extra sessions were free for us.

In honor of his graduation, I wanted to give him some "grades" in this blog. Even though we don't have the certificate today, I am still going to do it.

Basic Commands: A
Walking on Leash: B
Off-Leash Behavior: A+
On-Leash Behavior: B-
Intelligence/Games: A
Attention Span: B-
Mouthing Inhibition: B- (note: not aggressive biting)
Barking: B
Ability to Settle: C
He is very smart and responds to commands very well, but he still needs some work in areas that require him to be focused and calm. That's his main problem in areas like barking and mouthing/bite inhibition--when he gets worked up or excited, he has difficulty controlling himself, but a lot of that comes with age. He never bites out of aggression, but gets in states sometimes where he tries to mouth at us and is spazzing out on the ground because his gums hurt and he can't control himself. 

I have been noticing occasional glimpses of better self-control from him with his 1st birthday coming up soon. However, I have also noticed that he is getting increasingly protective of us with age, so barking has recently become more of a struggle than it was before. 

Hopefully, Apple will be an official graduate next Sunday. I'll keep you posted!

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