School Supplies

26 10 2010

Last night the boy and I went to Petco and took Hamlet on a bit of a shopping spree.  What dog doesn’t love a trip to the pet store?  We could take Hamlet into Petco or PetSmart, let him roam the aisles for 5 minutes and leave without purchasing anything and he would be just as happy as the times we go in and painstakingly pick out the perfect new toy.  It’s all the same to him: he just loves to sniff, sniff, wiggle butt, wiggle butt, and cajole treats from the employees to his heart’s content.  However, last night we had major shopping to do so we definitely didn’t leave the store empty-handed.

Hamlet starts obedience class (or “school,” as we’ve been calling it) in two days  and what does every dog need for his first day at school?  School supplies, of course!  One might think that all you need is a dog, a collar, and a leash to start dog obedience school but that’s not the case for our soon-to-be-superstar (a mother can dream, right?).  The trainer for Hamlet’s class emailed a list of what each dog will need for the five week class.  Below I’ve copied the list and the status of each item.

  • Dog – Check, one rarin’ Boston Terrier.
  • Leash (6 foot nylon or leather, NO retractables!) – Check, we’re anti-retractable folks.
  • Signed and completed waiver form, provided by the trainer – Check, I printed it out, filled it in, and the boy and I signed our John Hancocks.
  • Current vaccination records for the dog – Check, have them in the veterinarian file at home.
  • No choke chains or prong collars – Check, we only use a harness or nylon collar for Ham.
  • High value soft treats (no dry treats) – NEED, we only have dry treats at home.
  • Treat pouch (Ziploc bags or pocket don’t count) – NEED, we only have pockets or Ziplocs in the house.
  • Gentle Leader head collar or Easy Walk harness if your dog is a puller – NEED, Ham loves to pull, pull, pull.

We went to Petco for three different school supplies – soft treats, a treat pouch, and a Gentle Leader or Easy Walk harness – and left $49.52 lighter.  Here’s how we spent it.

Petco receipt

The school supplies got Hamlet's stamp of approval.

For soft treats we chose Zuke’s Mini Naturals because a) they’re all natural and Hamlet sometimes barfs stuff up so we like to keep things as simple as possible for his little tum-tum (nothing worse than puking in front of the whole class on your first day of school), b) we’ve given Hamlet Zuke’s before (the Hip Action treats with glucosamine and chondroitin) so had confidence he would like them and they’d be ok on his stomach, and c) they’re a local company (Durango, Colorado), a great bonus in addition to everything else.  Each treat is small and therefore perfectly portioned for training and only has two calories so we won’t plump Hamlet up while teaching him his reading, writing, arithmetic sit, stay, down.

Zuke’s Mini Naturals treats, peanut butter flavor, 6 ounce bag: $5.99 plus tax

Zukes Minis

I'm Hamlet and I approve these treats.

We had to ask a Petco employee (who turned out to be the resident dog trainer) where the treat puches were.  She showed us the spot and recommended this version of the treat pouch because the drawstring is on the outside of the pouch (versus inside of the pouch) so doesn’t get in the way of your hand when you reach in to grab a treat.  It was three or four dollars more but we figured it was worth it for that convenience.  We don’t want to be fumbling around with a drawstring malfunction when our little guy does something well and is waiting for his reward.

Petco Treat Tote: $9.99 plus tax

Treat Pouch

Is this the equivalent of me taking a picture of my kid on the first day of school and him/her being super embarrassed?

Finally, we looked at Gentle Leader head collars and Easy Walk harnesses.  We chose the Easy Walk harness for our anti-pulling needs since Hamlet is a brachycephalic (a.k.a. snub-nosed or smoosh-faced) breed and we worried that he wouldn’t have enough snout to work well with the Gentle Leader.  The dog trainer-Petco employee-extraordinaire (let’s call her Nancy for simplicity’s sake) also told us that many dogs don’t take to head collars, they take more getting used to, and they can shift around and get into the dog’s eye.  With the help of Nancy, we were able to try the Easy Walk harness on Hamlet and make sure it fit correctly.  We originally thought he’d be a size small but turns out he’s a medium.  This is a fit-sensitive training tool so if you’re shopping for an Easy Walk harness, I definitely recommend asking the store to let you try it on your dog before purchasing.  You want to make sure you have the right size or it won’t work properly.

Easy Walk harness, size medium: $29.99 plus tax

Easy Walk harness

The Easy Walk harness a.k.a. the no-pull miracle.

The Easy Walk harness was the most expensive of the school supplies but we hope to have it forever (or a very long time) and we can use it on everyday walks, not just in “school” (same goes for the treat pouch).  It’s also the supply that has already packed the most punch.  I talked to the boy this afternoon and he informed me that he used the new harness on Hamlet for their walk this morning and, “it’s a miracle!”  He said it’s like walking a totally different dog and that Hamlet doesn’t pull at all when wearing the new harness.  For the record, his previous pulling wasn’t unmanageable but that’s likely because he only weighs 20 pounds so he’s relatively easy to control.  If his enthusiasm were in the body of a Boxer, it would be a different story.

Hamlet in Easy Walk harness

I promise he doesn't look this depressed all of the time.

Hamlet sits in Easy Walk harness

"Yes, I'll model another angle of this harness as long as you give me that treat you promised."

Needless to say, we’re well prepared for school to start on Thursday.  I don’t know who’s more excited for school to begin – me or Hamlet.  I hope I’ll be able to sleep the night before…

What’s your experience been with dog “school”?  Do you use an Easy Walk harness, Gentle Leader head collar or other tool to discourage your dog from pulling on the leash?  Hamlet wants to know what he’s getting into so spill the kibble.