It probably wasn’t my best idea. I got my husband at a weak moment (nearly asleep on the couch) and decided just to drop it on him.
“I think you should take Capone to doggy obedience class tomorrow.”
We were having a glass of wine, and feeling very mellow. “Sure,” he said. Then he opened his eyes a bit wider. “Wait. What did you say?”
“Tomorrow Capone has a class, and oddly enough we have nothing else going on. I’ll go with you, but I think you should do the class.”
He swirled his wine as he considered my proposal. “I have a better idea. Why don’t we leave Capone at the class, and you and I can go to breakfast.”
“Uh, it doesn’t work that way.”
I poured him another glass. He needed it.
“Well, I guess it might be fun.”
I tried not to snort. “Yeah. Fun.”
On the way to obedience training, I thought I should prepare him a bit for the reality of the situation. “Just to let you know…it’s hard work. It’s 45 minutes of hard work. For you and for the dog.”
“I don’t like the sound of that. Maybe you do the class and I’ll watch.”
“Fine, but you have to pay attention. You can’t sit on the balcony and drink your coffee.”
“Come on. How hard can it be?”
I just stared at him. “It’s stressful and I sweat. A lot. It’s better than doing zumba.”
I clipped on my bait bag as soon as we arrived and let Capone out of the car, confident that he would once again rock obedience class. He’d been one of the best-behaved dogs lately, and I was sure my husband would be very impressed with his progress.
He wasn’t. Capone decided that day to be non-compliant. And a little obnoxious.
“What’s wrong with him?”
Capone, overwhelmed with the sights and smells of the dog park, leaped out of the car with crazy gleam in his eyes. He did his best to pull me away from the door to obedience class and straight to the dog park.
“You take the dog,” I said to my husband. “I’ll sign us in.”
To say he looked terrified would have been an understatement. “What do I do with him?”
“Walk him around. For five minutes.”
He looked less than convinced. I’d hoped Capone would calm down before I got back, but no such luck. He had on his Gentle Leader collar, a device that fit over his nose and prevented him from pulling. The Gentle Leader is a lifesaver for me, but it sometimes irritates Capone. Today was one of those days. Capone rubbed against every possible surface, trying to get the Gentle Leader off.
“I hate this collar,” said my husband.
“It’s a valuable training tool,” I insisted as Capone wound the leash around my legs and tried to use my shoe to pry it off.
We’d come for the early class, and it was small, but it was entirely filled with labs and German shepherds, a lively mix. One gorgeous Italian bull mastiff joined the group, and also a small brown dog that was a mix of a shar-pei and a pit bull.
“What is that thing?” asked my husband.
“A shar-pit? Or a bull-shar? I don’t know.”
I secretly wanted to call it a Shit-bull, but held myself back. He was a cute little dog, although he seemed a bit wound up. He was leaping into the air, barking and twisting his entire body around.
“He’s the worst dog in the class,” said my husband.
“Our dog is the second worse.”
Capone was rubbing his face on the floor, frantically rolling back and forth. “Yep.”
My normally calm and attentive dog now acted like a giant squirrel with ADHD. He eventually calmed down and got a bit of focus, but it was probably the worst class he’d ever had.
“What’s wrong with him?” asked my husband as Capone continued to roll around on the floor.
“I don’t know. He was always so good. I blame you.”
Capone tried at that moment to wiggle out of his Gentle Leader and almost succeeded. “It’s not me. That dog is psycho.”
Then I realized exactly what was happening. “Not psycho, although he’s close. Capone is now a….teenager.”
I was kind of an expert on teenaged males at this point. My oldest son was now twenty-one, but the younger two were still firmly entrenched in teen-hood. I knew the signs when I saw them.
How six months old puppies are like teenagers:
1. They are defiant. Capone had suddenly become headstrong and a bit stubborn, usually when I want him to come back into the house after playing outside. This applies to teenagers, too. They always want to stay out late, and they always think it’s unfair when you cut short their fun. Capone might bark, but at least he doesn't have a smart mouth. That's definitely a point in his favor. He also never rolls his eyes at me, another plus.
2. They think rules don’t apply to them. We’d trained Capone months ago not to go on the couch and not to go upstairs. We used something called a Scram Mat, which emitted a sound like a smoke detector and scared Capone (and anyone else in a two mile radius). It was effective. It was wonderful. But suddenly and without warning, the Scram Mat has no effect on him. At all. He loves to jump on the couch now just to challenge me. Fortunately he understands "off", especially when accompanied with me running at him like a crazy person.
3. They smell. On the way to obedience training, my husband had sniffed (repeated) and said, “Something smells like old socks. I think it’s the dog.” He may have been right, or he may have been smelling the dirty soccer socks I found under his seat. Both kind of smell the same. When my mom rode in my car today, she tried to be gracious about it, saying, “It doesn’t smell like dog…it smells more like dog food.” Judging by the dog treats scattered throughout my vehicle, that isn’t a surprise.
4. Which takes me to my next point – teenagers and puppies are both food motivated and like to eat. A lot. My boys wake up hungry and as soon as breakfast is over they are thinking about lunch. Capone is the same. His favorite words are “eat”, “meatball”, and “treat.” The only way I can get him to come inside when he’s being defiant is to say, “Meatball?” in a happy, singsong way. If I do, he runs right in.
5. They don’t understand consequences. Capone and I regularly engage in a sort of Mexican standoff. We face each other, like gunfighters, and there is usually something in Capone’s mouth that should not be there. “Drop it,” I say in my harshest voice. He doesn’t reply of course, but he mocks me. I can see it in his eyes. At this point I have two options. If another person is available, we engage in a merry chase that always ends under the dining room table. One person goes behind him, and one person crawls under in front of him. Once he’s effectively trapped, I take whatever it is out of his mouth and say, “Bad dog.” If no one else is around, this technique does not work, so I go for my next best option. I say, “Meatball?” in my sweetest voice. Capone immediately drops whatever he has in his mouth, and looks surprised when I don’t give him a treat. Instead I just point my finger at him and say, “No meatball. Bad dog.” He never holds a grudge. He just wags his tail and hopes for another meatball-earning opportunity.
7. They can sleep through anything. Last week at 2:30 am, I was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of coyotes outside. They were probably in the field across the street, but they sounded like they were in our yard. They yelped and yipped and howled, and it sounded an awful lot like they had caught something and were tearing it apart. I listened to them, waiting for some sign from Capone that he’d heard them, but the only sound that came from his kennel downstairs was the sound of him snoring. He didn’t hear a pack of crazed coyotes, but he can somehow hear it as soon as I step out of bed and my big toe touches the carpet. That makes him bark. Coyotes? Not so much. My boys didn’t hear the coyotes either. They also don’t hear alarm clocks, storms, smoke detectors, Capone, or the Scram Mat.
After I explained this brilliant realization to my husband, he just shrugged and said, “We’ve survived three teenagers already. At least Capone will only be this way for a few months, right?”
Capone with his best girl, Gracie, at the dog park.