You've gotten a ton of great advice! I think that as you relax and accept that Thunder is still just a baby, and that he's actually doing quite well for his age, you'll be able to just enjoy what you're doing and not worry about how he appears to anyone else.
I'm an obedience instructor and one of the things that I stress to my students is that they need to do what is right for THEIR dog, and not necessarily always try to follow the class. I think this is something that many instructors fail at - allowing for individual performance of each dog. Dogs don't learn at the same level. Some puppies are laid back, some are hyper, some are in-between. You just can't expect them all to do the same things together (as puppies OR as adult dogs). So there needs to be some leeway in what you're allowed to do at class.
It's completely counter-productive to continue to push a puppy to do something when the distractions are more than the pup can handle. I second the idea of coming early so that you can "warm-up" without all the distractions. But I also encourage you to notice when your pup is becoming overwhelmed. This can show up as lack of attention (to you), disinterest in treats, hyperactivity especially in trying to get to the other pups, etc. And as soon as he shows the first signs of this, calmly back your way out of the circle into a corner and quietly request his attention to come back to you. Don't force it, don't get frustrated. Just practice your attention exercises until he focuses back on you, and then you can rejoin the group.
If your instructor hasn't taught you specific attention exercises, that's something you need to do on your own. My dogs learn these starting at eight weeks old (and would start earlier if I had them). You can find guidelines for teaching attention on my website (www.kippsdogs.com/tips.html
). Attention is the KEY to all obedience - without attention, it's darnright impossible to train. And most dogs just love the exercise once they figure it out. It gives you something to do to bring his focus back to you, too, because it will be familiar to him when you go back to class.
As far as other behaviors to teach him - think outside the box! Dogs are mostly limited by us humans! *L* But always keep in mind that he is truly just a baby even though he's probably growing like crazy. Mentally he will not be fully mature for a couple of years. Yep, I said years! You will look back fondly on this 3-4 month age when he's a year old with a big body, too much energy, and hormones coursing through him .. *LOL* .. but it all settles eventually, and we just keep loving them!
There's a thread somewhere on this forum that lists a bunch of behaviors people have taught to their dogs. You can teach shake, and then develop that into a high five and then a wave goodbye (actually pretty easy to do). You can teach speak (quiet) and bark (loud). You can teach him to spin a circle on command - start off by luring a single circle and then rewarding (and you'll discover which way is more comfortable to him - clockwise or counterclockwise). You can teach him to lay on his side on command (great for grooming or trimming nails). You can teach him to touch your hand with his nose (the "touch" command is excellent for helping control him when you walk - once he learns that touching your hand equals a treat, then you can guide him around with your hand and gradually increase the amount of time between treats). You can also teach him to touch the end of a stick - like a piece of dowl - it helps to put something on the end to make the end more obvious. The touch stick is another great way to lead him through various exercises as he continues to learn.
You can do quite a few behaviors with him as long as you make the body language/commands obviously different. Expect him to confuse things - there will be times when you ask for something and he runs through EVERY behavior before he finally hits the right one. When he does that, just stand there and admire him .. *L* .. because it shows that he's thinking, just not stopping long enough to really hear or observe the right command/signal. I recently taught my girl to spin and now she wants to spin on every command (which has made heeling very interesting). I just try not to laugh (laughing can be rewarding to the dog). I know she'll work through it, and meantime we're just having fun.
Good luck, and enjoy him as a puppy while you can!
Melanie and the gang in Alaska
.. Trick, 12 years old and Tazer, 1 year old (the monster) (GSDs)
.. Khana, 3 years old and Dora, 11 years old (chows)