Saturday, April 2, 2011

Last Day Before Spring Break

Class started off normally enough today. The human and I always get there a little bit early since we all gather in the fenced in back yard and get in some off-leash play. All of us know each other, and the humans make sure we are safe by regularly practicing recalls. When the energy gets too ramped up, for example, all of us dogs are called back to the humans and we spend a little time settling down and grounding ourselves. We do this over and over again. It's great practice.

After the outdoor playtime, we get back on leash and go inside the training building. Our teacher Maureen Ross always has a few words of wisdom for us. We check in with each other on how the previous week has gone. We talk about what we'd like to work on in the class.

Those first few moments are always a nice time to connect and bond with our humans. Here is a candid moment shared between Jake and his human Kathy. They are awfully happy together, don't you think?

Some of my classmates have a more laid back attitude. Gracie, who was helping me herd around a Newfoundland named Journey, decided to recline a bit and grab a quick nap. I've seen her lay like this for hours--unless of course she's invited herself into someone's lap. She also has developed this incredibly cute behavior. She'll roll over on her back and lay perfectly still--perfectly still until someone walks close to her. She'll then use her paws to gently beckon the unsuspecting human toward her.

Class often presents me with an opportunity to practice tolerating change. That happens sometimes, doesn't it? You think you know what's going to happen. You think you can depend on a routine. Then everything changes and you need to adapt. If you can't adapt--well--you bark a lot and then adapt anyway.

You see, today Maureen had an idea. This is Maureen's idea face. Look closely. Learn this face. When you see it, there are frequently costumes involved. This is also a high probability of laughter and general silliness.

Being an adolescent, I provide the teacher with a lot of attitude when she asks me to do something that I find ridiculous. Sit? Stay? Really? Who wants to listen at school. This is my response to her idea face.

Mind you, Maureen doesn't do it alone. Please memorize the following faces. If you see any of them coming into your dog class turn the lights off, lock the door, and pretend like you aren't there. It's for your own safety. You could also find them all at New England Pet Partners -- just in case you'd like to invite them to your facility to provide a little animal assisted therapy (and humor, too).

"Pam" -- Wanted for dog drooling incident
"Liz" -- Wanted for questioning related to a howling noise disturbance
"Kathy" -- Wanted in two states for excessive treat giving
"Diane" -- Wanted for contributing to the delinquency of a dog (Gracie last scene in the back of a police cruiser)
"Noreen" -- Wanted for questioning in a herding incident
Okay -- we have that out of the way. So what did we do today? I thought we were going to do a conga line. The humans did after all have costumes on. It looks a little like a line dance, doesn't it? Here is what we did: one at a time we practiced sit/stay (or down/stay) and then one human walked away. The human then asked us to do something at a distance (for example, down -- or come interrupted by a "wait!" or "stop!"). That way we each got to practice several new behaviors in new combinations (an interrupted recall, being told commands at a distance, etc.). We also each got to work on our patience because we had to wait until it was our turn. As you can see from this picture, my classmates were all doing a great job of paying attention--that is except for me and Gracie. I was bored out of my gourd and Gracie--well--who knows what she is thinking.

Last thoughts? Dog training is important, fun, and a life long process. It's important (and easy) to learn the basics like sit and down. It's more complicated to learn those skills in different contexts. Dog school is one fun way to learn how to behave in a variety of situations. It provides constant novel stimuli, companionship, and fun. Try it out. You and your human will be happy.

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