My group offers a 10-week class called "Puppy Kindergarten" for members with new 8- or 9-week-old pups. More often a learning experience for the people than the dogs, the kindergarten class encourages and teaches us how to begin working immediately to gain the trust and obedience of a creature that would, in the hands of the average person, probably be no more than an adorable and barely forgivable tasmanian devil (of the Warner Bros. sort).
But the kindergarten teachers are wise and patient, and the simple tricks they know are profoundly effective.
I took year-old Lomax to kindergarten not because he needs to brush up on his basic skills, but because I could always use a refresher...AND because Lomax loooooves other dogs, which is a fine thing for a family dog, but not such a fine thing for a service dog. Not everyone with four legs (or two, for that matter, as Lomax is nondiscriminatory in these matters) is a potential playmate.
His brother Liam comes to these classes, too, because this is apparently a genetic enthusiasm. Liam must stay down under Matt's chair and observe the class, and behave without whining and fidgeting and sucking up to "his people" for attention.
But I took Lomax through the class itself. It must have looked comical, three other tiny puppies in the on-their-back "cradle" position with their handlers, and me with the remedial student, having to actually reeeeeach forward to grab and inspect his back feet.
He did a fair amount of wiggling and sniffing because he's not just friendly but also intact ("GIRLS LIVE HERE. I SMELL GIRLS. GIRLS. GIRLS. GIRLS."), but by the end of the class, he seemed to be fairly attentive and calm. The real test will come at his first official South Bay puppy raisers meeting this coming Monday, which will be wall-to-wall with people and dogs who are new and exciting. And they'll all be in costume.
Photos to come, I promise.