Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 2, 2010

Lifelong Learning for You and Your Dog

Posted at 09:54AM - Comments: (4)

“Why are you taking an agility class? Isn’t Otto agile enough?” That’s my husband’s question.

Otto is plenty agile; I am much less so. But that’s not why Otto and I are taking an agility class.

One of the main reasons I signed us up for the class is because I’ve found that it helps to take classes yourself when you are learning to teach. I’m interested in teaching, both in print (in the magazine) and in the course of my volunteer work at my local animal shelter.

I find that I often observe something about teachers when I’m a student. In my first class, for example, I noticed how much I like it when the instructor said, “Good job, Nancy!” – but only when I really thought whatever I did WAS good. I didn’t like it at all when I thought I did a lousy job of something. Praise has to feel authentic for it to actually feel good. At least, for people. I don’t know about dogs. Otto doesn’t seem to mind getting a treat at any time!

I’m also taking the class to help maintain Otto’s interest in working with me. When we work on the same stuff all the time, I notice he starts to get a little less enthused about the process. But whenever I ask him for something new, his eyes light up, and I can see him concentrate in an effort to figure out what he has to do to earn my praise or treat. He enjoys learning something new. Don’t we all?

The first class was not a huge challenge. I often ask him to jump on or over things on our walks, so the table, plank, and the jumps were not particularly novel for him. He’s previously been through an agility tunnel and over an A-frame at dog daycare. However, we both had to concentrate on doing these things with him on my right side, as opposed to my left. And building in the “pause” at the end of the obstacles made him furrow his brow in concentration. After just a try or two, he got the hang of it, and was bright and enthused about more.  I can’t wait for the next class.

What are you working on with your dog?

Comments (4)

We hear just about every day that keeping our (human) brains working and challenged with new things is good for us in many ways, and so it is for pets. If I don't let myself get too much into tunnel-vision when training, then it can benefit me too, thinking of different ways to accomplish something, trying to read our dogs better, etc.

Posted by: CYNTHIA C | November 3, 2010 6:47 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for the encouragement ton continue classes. I know, especially with cold weather and snow coming very soon, that taking a class with my Golden Retriever will be an important way for us to play, train and burn up some energy with focus and concentration when it's too cold to be outside. I had not continued classes with my other dogs after general obedience, but am excited to look for something new and different with Tanner. Thanks.

Posted by: Jeannie B | November 2, 2010 9:30 PM    Report this comment

Great article!

We have had our dog, Kayla, for almost a year. She has been through 5 classes and is finishing up her 6th class next week. Family and friends continue to ask us why we keep taking Kayla through classes. We explain that it keeps her mind and body active, and it continues to reinforce obedience and our bond with her. She doesn't just go through obedience classses either.

Right now, she is finishing up a K9 Games class, which is mostly agility. She has been through a few different obedience classes, but not because she is a failure, but because they all offer something different in the ways of training and connecting with the dog. We will continue to take her to classes until the day she goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There is nothing wrong with dogs going to classes throughout their lifetime. It is good for both dog and owner to be involved in that manner! We have a great time with her during classes, and it appears that Kayla enjoys them also.

We don't know what is on the schedule next! We are on the hunt for great classes. Once the weather turns nice again in several months, she will be starting dock diving training.

Posted by: Therapy Dog Mom | November 2, 2010 11:58 AM    Report this comment

I wholeheartedly agree! I too am a trainer that takes many classes with my dogs - Novice Obedience is the latest for my Therapy dog, and we have also done Rally Obedience together. My other dog and I have done every Agility class we can (some twice)! It helps my dogs and me bond even more, and absolutely aids in my teaching skills!!

Posted by: cburger2@gmail.com | November 2, 2010 11:34 AM    Report this comment

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