I knew I shouldn’t have bragged. I knew I was tempting fate when I wrote about how great Angus was, and how well-trained and how obedient and … oh, what was I thinking?
Because he has hit his rebellious stage right on time and with typical Angus enthusiasm. The rebellious stage in puppies usually starts at about six months, and Angus was six months and five days old when his hit.
It was also, quite inconveniently, the last day of his Obedience 1 class.
For five weeks he had been a shining star in class, the quickest to learn, the most eager to please. But on that last day he would have flunked out, had that been possible.
He forgot what sit means. Also, down. Also, to my great sadness, come, which has been one of his most endearingly reliable skills. Call his name anywhere in the yard or inside the house and he pelts toward me, full-tilt, top speed, thrilled that I want him at my side.
But now there are times when he doesn’t even turn his head.
On the walk the other day, he did not leave it, nor drop it when he encountered a quarter of a peanut-butter sandwich in the grass. No, he pounced on it and ate it. (Neither of which is a command.)
And to cap it all off, he peed in the house, about a gallon of pee, right on the hallway rug at the foot of the stairs. And when I yelled, which I did (“What the heck, Angus? What the actual heck?”) (but I didn’t say “heck”), he gave me that hooded teenage look and slouched away, probably to go smoke cigarettes behind the garage.
The rebellious period lasts, I’m told, a long time — maybe as long as a year. Not constant rebellion (or no dog would live past the age of six months), but frequent testing of the waters, trying for independence, shrugging off Mom.
I remember when the rebellious period hit Rosie, our 6-year-old black Lab. It manifested itself primarily as a resurgence of her dormant passion of unauthorized chewing. She started dragging tree limbs into the house, their leafy branches billowing and rustling behind her like the skirts of a ballgown.
With Angus, it means forgetting everything he once knew, as well as a resurgence of his dormant passion of rocketing toward my face when I tell him to sit. Charming in a 10-pound puppy, potentially deadly in a 40-pound dog. He could break my nose!
So this means back to the basics. The name game again. (Calling his name and giving him a treat when he looks at me.) Making him sit and lie down and wait. Making him watch me. Standing on his leash so he can’t jump.
At the end of the last Obedience 1 class, the instructor said she would tell each of us privately if she thought our dogs were ready for Obedience 2. She did not look in my direction. She didn’t have to. I knew the answer.
She won’t be seeing Angus in Obedience 2 anytime soon, but if things don’t improve, she might encounter us again — in a repeat of Obedience 1.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune. She is not a dog expert, just a dog lover. She is chronicling the first months of her puppy’s life on these pages. E-mail her at email@example.com on Twitter: @stribbooks
Coming July 14: Angus heads north. Follow Angus’s adventures at www.startribune.com/puppy