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Planning a training programme

I HAVE often wondered jut how much planning has gone into the preparation of some dog training programmes or courses. Yes, most instructors do know what their objectives are, they know the exercises they wish to train; but with some of them, that seems to be about the limit of their knowledge.

There are instructors who have been relatively successful in their own field of competitive activity - and with one dog. They think they are now ready to instruct others. There are some who have taken distance learning courses in training or behaviour, they have a pet dog, may have gone to a training club for a short spell and can blind the 'innocent' with theoretical know-how. That is possibly as far as their ability takes some of them.

There are of course, exceptions to every rule. Many years ago I joined a local club with my first dog. He was a W.T. Champion and a good Obedience Test C worker at the time, but I was also training my second dog. The instructor became a very good friend, all the years I knew him I never saw him handle one dog, or even demonstrate with a dog - but he was a real expert at instructing others, from rank beginners to Obedience Test C competitors.

A number of instructors over the years seem to think that all you do is stand in the middle of the class and give instructions to the group - Forward - Left turn - Right turn - About turn - Halt. That form of heel work training will take up most of the session. Recalls and Stays are sometimes carried out without any thought of introducing the various elements in the build up of constructive training for both exercises. At times the effect of one exercise on the other is not considered. Stay training can be so easily ruined by the manner in which the early stages of a Recall are carried out. Retrieve training is often started with the use of the hard centred dumbbell - and so many dogs are put off retrieve training for life by the crude handling of this piece of equipment.

We also have a number of instructors who are so 'food' or 'toy' orientated that they have no idea how to train a difficult dog to respond under stressful conditions when titbits and toys are the last things to enter the dog's mind as a suitable inducement to counter a strong distraction.

We could go on and on with the failings within a number of training establishments. That is the gripe pretty well out of the way. It is not all doom and gloom. Yes, there are good sound instructors around but to the rank beginner attending his first training course he can easily be duped by theoretical know-how. However, I am sure many readers of OUR DOGS will have experienced some of the situations described so far. Perhaps we could have some response from readers on the good, bad and the ugly aspects of training classes.

What makes a good training programme and course? There are so many factors; some have to be worked on and others come naturally. There are instructors who do not really have to think about it, they have the knowledge, the ability and an organised mind. However, let us look at the planning of a programme for a course to suit the PET dog owner to achieve control and the application of the basic exercises - but not to the degree required for the competitive Obedience ring. This is the starting point - the purpose of the course - what do dog owners want from their dogs? That, unfortunately, is not how all instructors see it. Some would like to see an Obedience competitor in every dog who comes into their class - and treat them as such.

Most owners would like their dogs to be attentive to them, walk on a loose lead, come back when they are called and probably stay when they are told. A retrieve would be a bonus. They are not worried about extra commands to get the required response or minor movements which would worry an Obedience competitor. They just want a generally obedient dog.

If the instructor thinks there is a very good reason to work a dog in a manner which is alien to the viewed requirements of the owner, it is up to the instructor to explain and convince the owner that the instructor's way is the best way to achieve the owner's own objectives.

For example, a dog who requires 'extra' commands to achieve an objective will require more and more 'extra' commands as time goes by if nothing is done to gain a more immediate response. To tell an owner that he would lose points in the Obedience ring would only alienate him if he has no interest in competing - the fact that he may change his mind at a later date should not affect the present. There are many examples of an 'Obedience' approach from instructors when the dog owner only wants an 'OBEDIENT' dog.

An instructor should have as much understanding of owners as he should have about dogs. When an owner has satisfactorily completed a basic training course for the 'domestic pet dog' and wishes to return for further training things can then change. A more demanding approach from the instructor for a competitive outlook is an understanding requirement for a continuation of training.

SETTING UP A TRAINING COURSE
Firstly, we consider what the course is for and, at this stage, I shall work on the basis of DOMESTIC DOG TRAINING with the purpose of achieving a sound foundation for a controlled and enjoyable companionship in eight stages of tuition.

There are two factors which should be considered.

1. The content.

2 The developing stages of training, or training programme.

THE CONTENT
The course being put forward has been based on the training of six exercises in a manner, and to a standard, which will result in having a dog which will be a pleasure to own.

These exercises are:-
1. ATTENTION GENERATING

2. COME BACK WHEN CALLED

3. LOOSE LEASE WALKING

4. SIT AND STAY

5. DOWN AND STAY

6. STAY STANDING

Each exercise has an objective and it will be noted that the titles for some of the exercises differ from the norm for Obedience training. This is to ensure we distinguish between Obedience training and the less regimented approach for the training of the family pet. The objective of each exercise is as follows:-

EXERCISE 1: - ATTENTION GENERATING
OBJECTIVE - To ensure that the dog will give the owner his full attention when it is required and will respond to any follow up activity. To give the dog some purpose for giving his attention to the owner and as a follow up activity the dog must be prepared to watch and follow the owner's every movement. The owner's movement will develop so that it will be alternating between backwards and forwards.

This approach is also an important introduction to both the COME BACK WHEN CALLED and LOOSE LEAD WALKING exercises but also includes an introduction to the STAY exercises.

EXERCISE 2: - COMEBACK WHEN CALLED
OBJECTIVE - To ensure that the dog will give his full attention to the owner when required and will respond to the call to go back to him.

EXERCISE 3: - LOOSE LEAD WALKING
OBJECTIVE - The dog to walk reasonably close and level with the owner at his left side. This should be carried out on a loose lead with the level of attention which has the dog aware of, and reacts to, any changes of the owner's movements. The dog should also be prepared to sit at the owner's left side as and when required.

EXERCISE 4: - SIT AND STAY
OBJECTIVE - To ensure that the dog will go into the SIT position when required and STAY until released.

EXERCISE 5: - DOWN AND STAY
OBJECTIVE - To ensure that the dog will go into the DOWN position when required and STAY until released.

EXERCISE 6: - STAY STANDING
OBJECTIVE - To ensure that the dog will remain STANDING and without moving in any direction during moments of stress and until the owner considers that the situation no longer demands his restraint.

NOTE: The training of the STAY exercises is there for various reasons and owners may choose to develop any one to a higher degree than the others.

To have a dog SIT for a short spell can be very convenient for examining or grooming activities. To leave a dog sitting is part of the programme of training to help ensure stability and control.

To have a dog going DOWN and staying can be useful for examination or grooming; however, this is the most comfortable position for leaving a dog for a short period of time. A dog is normally much more comfortable when left at the DOWN rather than in the SIT position.

To have a dog STANDING when requested has a number of advantages, quite apart from showing in the breed ring. Again, to stand for examination or grooming is a benefit worth working for; however, the training to have a dog stay where he is when out on the loose for pleasure or exercise is an extremely useful feature. Under stressful situations it may be necessary to COMMAND to stay where he is because of traffic (bicycles, children or other dogs in the area can constitute traffic).

Dogs Worldwide.com This article by John Cree has been reproduced courtesy of Our Dogs

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