Sunday, May 20, 2012


Dog trainers often talk about wishing for "compliance" from their human clients. I always thought that term sounds harsher than it's meant. What trainers often hope is that they will give a private lesson or teach a class, pass on some ideas, and then the humans will reinforce with the dog what was taught until the next visit. And trainers hope that their humans will stick with the training plan until the doggie is ready to solo. Sometimes a client will want to help his dog but only until human interest wanes. Helping a reactive pup through a problem with other dogs, for instance, can often take several months. Even regular obedience training needs dedication--or you end up with only a semi-trained pooch: Blackie comes but only when he feels like it--not when he sees a squirrel run into the street and . . .

I understand why so many trainers sell "packages" of private lessons: the dog has a fair shake at solving the issues at hand. Even in a class situation, people may spend $100 or more and yet attend only a few sessions. I used to assist in a class where the instructor taught Come last--since that's what clients want most for their dogs to learn and they kept attending class this way. People are busy, but the dog suffers when we don't persevere.

I know I myself need "accountability"--that's the word I enjoy more for myself, at least. With two new dogs in our house this year, I knew going back to class would be a fabulous time. I love training my own dogs, after all. Dori, our Papillon puppy, went straight to Intermediate Novice Obedience with my friend Debbie as her trainer. And Tanner, the leaping Miniature Pinscher, was destined for Agility--also with Debbie heading the class. Suddenly it was MY turn to PRACTICE regularly during the week between classes. A trainer should perhaps set an example in class? I loved having the weekly reminder. What hadn't Dori and I worked on enough this week? Will Tanner's new bait pouch arrive so we could use it in the next class? Deadlines are Good Things! And maybe training your dog is a bit like going on a diet with a friend: people know what you're up to. Thankfully, Dori and Tanner show off despite their tired mama. After a busy day of training other people's dogs, I don't always want to start again with my own after I come home. But Dori and Tanner luckily don't need a lot of repetition to pick up a new exercise.

We start another round of classes again next week. Cross paws that I can still stay one step ahead of the doggies!