As we become more involved in the dog game, more and more of our time and interest is taken up with the various aspects of dogs. Our friends tend to be narrowed to those with whom we can share our enthusiasm over our wins and discuss our problems in training. It is all too easy to forget when teaching an obedience class that most of the people in the beginning levels are not as interested in or as knowledgeable about dogs as we may be. While all the students are obviously interested in their own dogs, and interested in having a trained pet, most have no interest in going to trials or joining the club. All too often these students may be ignored as we devote our attention to the few who are more inclined to get caught up in the dog game. To quote from the Obedience Regulations: “The purpose of obedience trials is to demonstrate the usefulness of the purebred dog as a companion of man, not merely the dog’s ability to perform specified routines in the obedience ring.” We should not lose sight of the fact that even if we are training eventually for trials, we should first be teaching the owner to train his dog to be a better companion.
It is important that we keep our perspective about dogs when working with those not so involved in our sport because it is possible that our zeal may actually alienate
rather than inspire a similar interest in others. For example, too much emphasis on training for a high score can be discouraging and meaningless for the owner struggling just to gain control over his dog. “That will cost you points”, may be appropriate in a trial preparation class, but in the beginning can wipe out any feeling of accomplishment the owner might have had over training his dog simply to perform the exercise. What are helpful and important hints to the advanced student can be nagging and nitpicking to the person whose interests are not in the ring.
The apparent formation of cliques of exhibitors chattering about the recent trials and matches entered can leave the newcomer feeling very left out since he has nothing to contribute and probably can’t even understand the jargon and terms. The student whose dog is not purebred or not an AKC breed will quickly realize that he doesn’t even have a chance of becoming one of the group. It is important that each student feel welcomed.
Remember that each student in the class deserves your attention, assistance and cooperation in accomplishing his goal. Those students with the potential and interest should, of course, be encouraged to exhibit, but not at the expense of slighting even one other student.
©1974 W. H. Morrison