Many years ago, I attended another trainer’s class so that I could teach my puppy how to behave with other dogs close by.  I was disappointed to find the trainer seemed to disregard, or misunderstand, each dog’s level of training.  She would do something easy, then something way over the heads of her canine students, then something else, unconnected to the previous work, that left some dogs bored and others in the dust.  Even in a group class, it’s possible to assess and satisfy the needs of each individual.  Without doing that, not much learning will take place.

Here all the dogs are on leash, but two of the dogs have their leashes held while the other two have their leashes dropped.  The two dogs with leashes dropped are drop dead obedient.  Still, a little tune-up is always a great idea to help keep them that way.  The other two dogs, both rescues, have issues, and the leash will remind them that while we are aware of their issues, we still need for them to learn some basic commands.

During the class, every effort is made to engage the minds of all the dogs.  While the two very obedient dogs might be bored practicing the down stay, they will get to try something new immediately afterwards.  After the down stay, we always do something active, some rapid heeling, sometimes with two dogs weaving around the other two.  In that way, the two moving are improving heeling skills in a place, the country, where heeling makes no sense to the dogs and is seldom used.  The other two get to bullet-proof their sit stays, so each one is learning something that will stand him or her in good stead.  We also like to work on jumps.  Since the dogs are on a soft surface, the grass, jumps won’t harm them.  And since one of the owners is a good sport, we usually have the dogs jump over him rather than over an inanimate barrier.  (Thanks, Richard.)  The dogs love the lively change of pace and will willing follow up with a sit stay, two on leash, two with leashes dropped.

Monk, our rescue, needs lots of practice on the recall.  Mabel, our friends’ rescue, needs to understand the importance of paying attention even when there’s something else she’d rather do.  Sky and Nellie are not only being good sports.  They, too, are honing their skills.  A little reminder that even on sunny days when the pond is calling them, when the birds are singing and the grass smalls delicious and all is right with the world, it’s important to heed your partner’s voice.  After all, she may actually be calling you in for dinner.