I have now officially held three training classes. It has taken a while for things to really get going, some people have missed classes, had other problems etc, but today we really got to work with the classes. It was much more structured than previous weeks,whilst being looser than your average training class. We have been doing a mix of formal and informal work.
I have taken to a structure of the first 5-10 minutes being a time to get the dogs focused on their handlers doing some loose lead walking, jogging and play. We then spend the next 30 minutes doing structured work where everyone gets to work at the same time. I feel it's important that handlers and their dogs do not stand around doing nothing during classes as it can become boring for both handler and dog and then focus is lost and that's when dogs begin to play up and handlers get frustrated.
We do have some dogs with issues in the class and I have ensured that class layout benefits the dogs to reduce stress. I have been observing each dog and handler carefully to make sure I can get the best out of them. During formal training so far we have been working on heel work, sit, down and introduced recall. Throughout I encourage the handlers to really engage with their dog to keep the focus and make the dog more willing to work WITH them. I've been involved in classes before and have often seen what seems to me almost a battle of wills between handlers and dogs. I do not agree with forcing a dog to do something, and so if a particular task is not working for one handler and dog I suggest breaking it up with a different task and go back to the difficult one later once both handler and dog have relaxed a little more.
I have seen improvements in the dogs during class already which has been fantastic. I thoroughly encourage handlers to bond with their dogs in a variety of ways and it's really what works for the pair. There is never a 'one size fits all' with a dog and handler relationship and its finding out what really makes each pairing tick which will help guide the training.
At the end of each class we spend 5-10 minutes again just doing some focus exercises but try and encourage the dogs to de-stress and relax a little to ensure that training remains a positive experience for them. It's lovely getting to meet handlers and their dogs and really get to know them. I look forward to many more weeks to come.
Dog Trainer, animal lover, artist and photographer