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Teddy’s Tales: Puppy Classes

puppy classes

Teddy loves a newspaper. I like to think we have that in common. And while it can be slightly frustrating to have the Sundays shredded while I am in the kitchen making coffee, I have decided to choose my battles, and leave the newspapers on a taller table.
Training gathers apace. Before we start Puppy Class, Kevin-the-Trainer has listed all the things that a puppy needs to be exposed to sooner rather than later. There is a short window of opportunity (before 16 weeks) when puppies are receptive to all things new, and you have to make the most of it before fear kicks in. So the race is on to introduce Teddy to, among other things, trains, buses, roadworks, loud noises of any description and people – all different types, but particularly squeaky, unpredictable children.
We can’t take Teddy out on foot until his jabs kick-in so we take him out in a bag. Challenge number one: children. I make my way to school with Teddy’s head poking out of an ancient, towel-lined Herve Chapelier nylon tote. Few register Teddy’s head bobbing up and down in his customised carrier, but when my children come out of their classrooms and race towards our dog-in-a-bag, I realize that their talk this week must have been of little else: a swarm of classmates follow and we are swallowed-up by small hands eager to feel some fur. Teddy is remarkably un-phased but we cut his immersion therapy short as frankly it’s all a bit too much for me.
But at least it’s all positive. Going out and about with a new puppy reminds me a little of life with a new baby. Not only do I seem to be spending time lingering in bookshops (too long, clearly: an assistant at our local Waterstones now hails me from across the shop floor, “The Woman with the Dog-in-a-Bag!”) but like a baby, a pup brings out the best in people: they smile, they coo, they stop and pat. Teddy laps it up and I feel all warm and fuzzy.
Until we start Puppy Class and Teddy begins to bark. And bark. It’s a very specific, high-pitched yowl. As every other dog there seems to have tacitly agreed on a strict no-bark policy, Teddy suddenly looks out of control. Despite our best efforts to do as Kevin-the-Trainer tells us and turn Teddy around in order to break eye contact with the dog he’s barking at, Teddy continues. We start to imagine a future continually punctuated by Teddy’s raucous yelps.
A friend comes over with Fudge, her sweet and biddable Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The dogs start off well enough – we keep them on leads, they check each other out, they seem to be okay. Their leads are relaxed and then Teddy goes for the older dog. We start to imagine a future continually restraining a fluffy attack dog.
We visit my in-laws and their elegant, docile old Greyhound, Jess. Teddy enters their sitting room and, like a smudgy lightening bolt, he goes for her.
And then he moves on from barking and starts to go for other dogs at the Puppy Class. What’s happened to our calm little pup? “He’s a bit of a bully boy,” is Kevin-the-Trainer’s opinion. “We’ll have to nip it in the bud,” he says, warning us that he is going to tell-off Teddy the next time he acts up and that his method will sound worse than it is. In fact it’s nothing harsher than Teddy is meting out – all noise and but a small flurry of action which involves sending Teddy towards the other dog before pulling him away. It’s effective. Teddy recovers his jauntiness in seconds but behaves himself for the rest of the class. Kevin-the-Trainer is pleased with the results but I am left with a worrying feeling that we may have to get the hang of this complicated maneuver ourselves.

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