Last night, we took our four-month-old Goldendoodle, Cooper, to his first Puppy Kindergarten class
My 15-year-old daughter and I were fairly confident as we got Cooper ready to go off for this big adventure. For the past month, we have been working hard on training him ourselves. We’ve taught him a lot of basic commands, like “sit,” “stay,” “lay down,” and “come.” We take him on frequent walks to expose him to different environments, people and dogs. And we have watched lots of YouTube videos to learn how to teach him new skills.
He was at the top of the age range for Puppy Kindergarten since he just hit the 16-week mark. I kind of felt bad for the other puppy owners who would be bringing their 8- to 12-week-old puppies who most likely had not learned to sit and stay like Cooper can.
“He probably won’t even learn anything new,” I smugly told my daughter on the way there. “We’re mainly just taking him to socialize.”
An hour later, we came home like two soldiers returning from war. We were exhausted from trying to control the kindergartner who clearly had been recognized by everyone as the worst dog in class.
It started the instant Cooper walked through the door into the lobby. He was overwhelmed by the excitement of so many other doggy butts to sniff. The scents. The sights. The fur!
He couldn’t listen to anything we said. Many of the other dogs were able to calmly sit next to their owner and accept treats. Not Cooper. He was practically bouncing with excitement.
When we got into the training room, we were all supposed to sit in separate areas on folding chairs with our dogs next to us. After a few minutes, we got Cooper to calm down enough to sit. But he wasn’t going to do so peacefully. He began barking at every other creature that moved. His voice seemed 100 times louder than anything we had ever heard.
The teacher was trying to give instructions and asked her assistant to locate the loud dog that was making it impossible to hear anything. She walked across the room toward us, asking if it was our dog or the one next to us.
“It’s Cooper!” the teacher called out.
His name would become well known by the end of class.
“Um, Cooper, can you go back to your spot?” the teacher would ask.
“Can you try not to pull Cooper’s leash?” she would ask me.
“Cooper, can you be quiet?”
“Cooper needs a job,” the teacher would instruct her assistant when it came time to show a new trick.
Cooper was pretty much dragging me across the room to go visit the other dogs. He would stand up and walk on his back legs when a guy with a video camera came by to shoot footage of the class. They will probably have to make an extra segment about crazy dogs who missed their calling in the circus.
I’m not sure what skills we were supposed to have taught Cooper during the one-hour session. I was too distracted trying to keep him from lunging toward other dogs or barking so loudly no one could hear the instructions. My daughter and I just tried to keep him sitting and quiet the entire time by giving him treats.
I swear that every other dog sat quietly and obeyed perfectly everything their owner asked them to do. There was an adorable mini Goldendoodle, Ivy, a few dogs over who probably weighed in at about 10 pounds. Her fur was a beautiful curly auburn with white spots in all of the right places. She sat contentedly next to her owner, who also was a super cute auburn with her hair perfectly curled. She was even wearing a cute outfit with booties.
I looked at her with admiration and remembered when I was able to dress in cute outfits before I had to default to my preventative Cooper uniform of old jeans, a stinky sweatshirt and pull-on black boots that I didn’t care if Cooper ruined if he decided to jump all over me.
Rip, the hunting dog next to us also sat calmly next to his tough-looking owner who drove him to class in a massive pick-up truck. I could see them both looking at Cooper out of the corner of their eye like they felt sorry for us.
Keila, the Australian Shepherd, was friendly to Cooper and seemed to be open to sniffing. He had super smooth black and white fur, matching his owners who also had black hair and were dressed in black and white. The young couple gave us a half smile, but seemed to be unsure if they really wanted to be seen with the class clown.
“Hey guys! Let’s have a party!” is what I thought Cooper was trying to say with all of his barking. “We’re all here, guys! Let’s have some fun!”
The trainer came by to let us know that Cooper was barking because other dogs were looking at him. My daughter and I learned to shield Cooper’s eyes if we noticed another dog’s eyes were starting to shift in our direction. “Mom! Quick! Ivy is looking this way,” Alayna would warn me. This kept him mostly quiet for the remainder of class.
A few times, I am proud to report that Cooper actually laid down on the floor, probably out of total emotional exhaustion from having to exert so much self control. I raised my hand to try to point out to the class that “YOU MIGHT NOTICE COOPER IS LAYING DOWN!” My daughter quickly grabbed my hand and told me to stop being an embarrassment. (Like mother, like puppy.)
The instructors let us know that the dogs probably wouldn’t be allowed to socialize until at least week three of class. Even then, it would only be allowed if they were sure the dogs had the same temperament and would be able to play nicely together.
I’m almost positive I know where this is going. On Week Three, there will be a big announcement. “We regret to inform you, there will be no puppy free play during this session due to the erratic behavior of one of our kindergartners.”
And everyone in the class will moan: “Cooper!”