Two months ago, we brought home Elliott, our Cockapoo puppy, at 10 weeks of age. Once he got all his shots, I enrolled him in puppy class. I’ve had enough dogs in my life to know that if you don’t curb bad habits early, you’re in for a lifetime of aggravation.
What I had forgotten, though, was how difficult it was/is to follow the trainer’s instructions. Again, my ADD was following me straight into puppy class.
Here’s an example:
“Class, we are going to work on ‘LEAVE IT. This will allow you to protect your dog from eating harmful objects like rat poison, spoiled donuts and screws on the garage floor.”
Give your puppy the sit command. Stand in front of him so he can see you. Wave your hand in front of his face for 15 seconds. If it takes 25 seconds, that’s ok. If that’s the case, wave it 2 more times. Ok, good. Next, praise him for sitting. Now… place a treat (make sure it’s cut in half so you don’t fill him up and lose his attention) 3 feet in front of him using your left hand. With your right hand, hold on to the top of his collar. Better yet, take his leash and wind it around his belly.” (Teacher demonstrates and I have no idea how she pulled that off- I try to copy her but the leash flops all over Elliott’s shoulders and legs. I know already I am about to flunk puppy class and am imagining feeling 8 sets of eyes on me; 16 if you include the dogs).
“Now that you are holding him firmly at the collar or make-shift harness, drop the treat and say LEAVE IT. If he lunges at the treat, repeat LEAVE IT 3 times while pulling on the collar/harness. If he chooses to lay down instead of sitting, pull up on the leash. Good. Now if he DID leave it, take the treat and move it close to his face, praise him, then give it to him.”
“I want you to practice this at home 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time no less than 6 days a week; 7 days is preferable.”
By now, I have already forgotten the command words. Was it “leave it”, “drop it” or “stay”?
And how do you make that leash turn into a harness? How far away do you toss the treat? What if he lurches and grabs it? Do I scold him? Make the leash shorter?
I look around the room and am amazed that everyone else got it figured out on the first try. I see them going through the motions of harnessing their pups, dropping the treat and knowing exactly what to say, how and when.
We’re now on to the next lesson: Stay. All I can remember after that is that you’re supposed to wave your hand in front of the puppy. So..do you hold on to his collar? Do you walk far away? Or just a few steps? Cripe, I have no clue and before I can even attempt to put all the pieces together in my head, she’s already on to Come, then Drop It, Sit (while opening the door), and 1 ½ hours of various other dog commands that are supposed to turn Elliott into a mechanical dog that won’t eat the gobs of food accidently dropped daily onto our kitchen floor.
Two more weeks of class and already I’m ready to quit. A good friend with lots of puppy experience suggested I use my cell phone to video tape the sessions. But by the time I figure out where the movie button is, the class will have ended.
ADHD! It follows me everywhere. Even to puppy class. But folks, I don’t want to leave you hanging. There is an explanation to why following all these seemingly simple steps can be so difficult for us.
It’s mainly about Executive Function. Or the lack of it for those of us with ADHD. That, plus being distracted (‘Where DID she get that cute pink studded collar for little Zoe?)’
Executive Function: a concept that can be a bit difficult to understand. Think of it as a symphony orchestra. Without a conductor, each musician will have no clue when to start, stop, play louder, faster, etc. ADD brains tend to have conductors who take long vacations to the Caribbean, leaving us stranded in confusion.
I think I just may take my Flip camera and video tape the next class so I’ll have a better chance of practicing the exercises at home correctly. After all, a Flip only has one button.