There are a wide variety of topics related to living with dogs which can be handled through class handouts. Students don’t just want to learn standard obedience exercises -they want to learn how to clip their dog’s nails and keep “Peppy” off the furniture (or if they don’t, they SHOULD!) For this purpose, I use something called the weekly lab assignment. If I were to call it a handout, it would become just that, and the students would probably not even bother to read it. By making it an assignment, which we will review and discuss together next week, the student has to become involved. The first week, for instance, is a lab on how to clip the dog’s toenails. The assignment involves learning, clipping and bringing the dog to class next week with short nails (and thus less slipping and sliding on the gym floor.)
Labs can cover anything from house training to grooming. I find that this is a good time to get on my soap box and preach about the redeeming value of using dog crates, spaying and neutering your pet dogs and especially, not breeding your pet dogs just for the sake of having puppies. I include a lab on putting identification on your pet for protection (I advocate tattooing,) and also a lab on finding a fun sport in which to participate with your dog (I also advocate having FUN with your dog.) You can make up your own labs about anything. You could include such things as, “How to stop your dog from jumping up,” or “How to teach your pet a trick.” Labs are like a “catch-all” to cover all of the little topics which can eat away at class time when the questions which the labs answer come up. It’s nice to be able to tell the student that their question is a concern to a great many other students, and that it is covered in detail on the week six lab assignment. Labs are also a nice diversion from the routine of weekly homework lessons. The owner of a chronic run-away dog once told me that the lab on whistle training alone was work the entire price of the class, as now his dog returns immediately when he hears the whistle.
Student feedback tells me that the labs are well worth the effort. Many of the handlers write on their evaluation sheets that the labs are the most interesting part of the class.
Next month, the topic of this column will be another valuable teaching aid: The Evaluation Sheet.
©1990 Lonnie Morgan (Olson)