K 9 Corner, Dec. 5

Published 8:23 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last week I answered a question on how to teach a dog to respond to the reader’s specific needs. I mentioned taking the dog to a dog obedience school. This week I would like to comment on selecting an obedience school that meets the dog owner’s requirements.
My first dog, a standard schnauzer, joined my family at the age of four months. She was willing and receptive to my limited instructions, but, because of lack of socialization as a little puppy, she didn’t like men – any man. So I found out about three obedience schools in my area through a pet store employee and started calling and questioning what they taught, how often the classes met and anything else they could tell me about the training offered. None of these schools were in my county, so distance and time were factors too.
The first organization I contacted was quickly eliminated from my list because it was mainly a social hour: people and their dogs gathered together at a specific time and place to have coffee and chat. Their dogs were allowed to socialize too, whether individually with supervision or supervised group play I never found out.
The second organization wasn’t going to start a new class for over a month and it was already mid-summer; besides that school was quite a distance from me requiring driving time on top of the class time. However, I kept the information because it covered training the dog to be a good house companion.
The third group really impressed me, even over the phone. Their classes lasted several weeks longer than the other two, and their price was comparable. They covered house manners as well as training to earn the dog’s American Kennel Club’s obedience title. Besides, the club’s representative invited me to come to a class and “see for myself as well as talk to some of the trainers, before I made up my mind.” That was an invitation that neither of the other groups offered.
I took my dog with me when I responded to the invitation and was greeted cordially and introduced to the various dog trainers. After observing one class, I was invited to take my dog, since I had her with me, into the next class that was just starting.
A number of weeks later, we were all invited to participate in a fun match that was run like an AKC dog obedience trial. That’s when I learned that a verbal command plus a hand signal were not permitted in an obedience trial. Yes, we learned hand signals in that beginning class! (Years later when my dog lost her hearing, I found that hand signals were wonderful substitutes and I was so glad I had been taught how to teach my dog to respond to hand signals.)
Today’s classes include lots more options, such as: agility, Rally obedience and other events offered and encouraged by the American Kennel Club. Even without competing, these exercises are good for the dogs, both physically and mentally stimulating.

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