For the majority of instructors it is easy to step forward and make the necessary corrections on the handler’s dog to demonstrate the procedure involved and the in- structor’s ability. While this may be an excellent technique for those handlers having similar abilities to anticipate and react with the required agility and force, it provides little consolation for those lacking these talents.
For the handler who possesses a minor or major physical or mental problem, the instructor’s technique must change. To be aware of these problems the instructor should handicap himself similarly in order to understand the utter frustration the handler experiences. Now, ask yourself this question… “Is being an adept handler and training the dog the answer?” Unfortunately many instructors feel that it is and in so doing, miss out on an opportunity to acquire new knowledge that could hopefully ease future training problems.
Many instructors use the excuse that with ‘x’ number of dogs it is not possible to satisfy the needs of all handlers in a class. However, I would remind those instructors that if you accepted their money, you indeed obligated yourself to this task. Time should be taken either before or after class to attempt to satisfy their needs. Granted it won’t be easy and maybe you will fail but even in failing knowledge is gained.
For the handicapped, preparation is of paramount importance. Improvement to the slightest degree is a giant step forward. How fast the dog learns is not important nor is perfection the goal either. Control of the dog is what it is all about. For instance, take the handler who cannot bring himself to relax the leash… Simply remove the leash from his grasp, tuck it under his belt or over his shoulder. Use your imagination. Try, try, and try again. The answer will be found. In the beginning, establish goals that would seem ridiculous… “Let’s see if we can go maybe four steps this time.” Slowly but surely you’re on your way.
As an instructor, be interested in the handler’s problem because the dog’s problem is relevant to the proficiency of the handler. Yet, we continually hear requests… “How do you get a dog to stop this or do that”…without knowing the handler’s ability.
I have heard knowledgeable instructors state, “You can’t make a handler out of introverts.” I do not share their opinion nor do I believe in the word “can’t.” It is more like I “won’t” in this instance. Desire plays a vital role on the part of both instructor and handler. Should the handler lack desire it is up to the instructor to instill new desire in that handler. No, it doesn’t always work, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
The welfare of the dog is dependent on the instructor’s involvement with its handler. The ability of the handler to improve is based on that handler’s skill to improve, not the instructor’s. What good is the ability to relate if you fail to understand the problem? Understanding need not be a sympathetic or tolerant attitude. It should be the comprehension of what efforts are required to solve the problems.
©1976 J. R. Kenner