Monday, June 27, 2011

Mondays with Marin- The School Edition

For three weeks now, Miss Marin has been attending classes. Her new Sunday activity is obedience classes at Petsmart.

We talked with the trainers about a month ago, brought Marin in for a little parent/teacher conference, and all agreed our girl was eligilbe for the intermediate class! What a genius! We couldn't have been more proud. Evan and I were fairly smug that whole week leading up to the first class. We had been such awesome dog parents that we skipped the beginner class entirely. Marin is a champ at sitting, laying down, staying and she can even charm a stranger with her shake.

MD on her way to class.

At the first class, we shared how we wanted Marin to become a Canine Good Citizen at the end of her training. In our minds, we were winning Dog Owners of the Year.

And then it happened...

Marin lost her mind, forgot all her "rules, boundaries and limitations," and went barking bonkers.

Jesse the Weimaraner, Bentley the Llahso Apso, and Chloe the mutt were peacefully laying down as the trainer explained our first lesson,  but Marin was barking, no- howling. At everything.

Imagine Petsmart on a Sunday. Weekend errand runners. Dogs everywhere.

Marin's uncontrollable urge to "speak" set off an explosion of yapping, barking, meowing.... utter chaos.

I was beside myself with embarrassment. Evan was sweating profusely. We were both staring holes into the floor. We kept trying to get Marin to stop.... lost cause. The trainer finally ended our misery and called break time.

We slunk into one of the cat product aisles (aisle of shame) and debriefed. "What happened to our perfect little angel?" "Are we gonna get kicked out of class?" "Why is it so unbearably hot in here?!"

The patient tranier came over and comforted us. She assured us it was normal, the barking didn't bother her and that we needed to calm down. Marin was just overstimulated. Reward good, calm behavior and wait until the loud, bad behavior stopped.

Easy for her to say. She wasn't the owner of the barking pariah.

I'm not sure how that first class ended. And we definitely didn't learn anything. I was too busy thinking of ways to escape than to pay attention to how to "sit with distractions."

We came home totally defeated. I think we both lost sleep wondering if our perfect dog had just morphed into a Dog Whisperer case.

After some practice and lots of prayer, Marin and I braved the next class. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the chaos and embarrassment solo, since Evan had to work, but I was at least prepared to handle it.

The trainer was prepared too.

She had chew sticks, the dog version of cheese whiz and lots of distractions for Marin. As soon as she started barking at something we just gave her something to eat to change her focus. Worked like a charm.

Now that the barking was under control, I could actually see the smart side of Marin again. She picked up on the skills faster than the other dogs and was very eager to please. She is learning a lot of useful things like going to her bed, leaving treats on the floor until she is allowed to have them, and spinning in a circle.

Evan and I learned our lesson too. Never before has "pride comes before the fall" been more real or more mortifying. We have a good dog. She's not perfect. And that is okay.

Tiring her out before class. One-eared wonder.

Maybe some day she'll be a Canine Good Citizen and show the world how awesome pit bulls can be, or maybe she'll just be our sweet, lovable girl with a penchant for barking.

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