Nine years ago a well-known dog obedience instructor came to the animal shelter where I volunteered. We were hammering out a euthanasia policy and she was the guest speaker. As I sat in the audience I couldn’t help notice she came to speak to us in dirty clothes and no shoes. Her attitude about shelter dogs seemed cold and she talked to us like we were a bunch of “kooks.” I had just turned thirty and was looking into making some important changes in my life. As the evening wore on I said to myself, “I can do that, and I think I can do it better than that.” That one evening started me on a journey that I’m still enjoying to this day.
At that time my dog was an eight-year old terrier mix that was not interested in training, but was the perfect dog for me when I was busy raising my kids. She lived to be 17 years old. The dogs I used for training and practicing were shelter dogs. The goal was to help the dogs become more adoptable during their stay at the shelter. When I started teaching dog obedience classes most clients were interested in basic obedience and not really competing with their dogs. To this day it is that group of people that make up most of my classes.
One year ago my husband John and I decided to specialize in Newfoundlands. So we added Louise and Hawkeye to our family. Louise is now 16 months and Hawkeye is 8 months. We enjoy the work they do such as draft work and water rescue. Our goal is to put a Versatile Newfoundland (VN) title on each dog. To earn that title your dog must be a Champion Dog (Ch.), a Water Rescue Dog (WRD), a Draft Dog (DD) and earn a Companion Dog (CD) title. We are having fun and learning a lot about training a dog for a title.
I had always gone to dog shows as a spectator and to say the least they can be very confusing. Especially in the breed ring. How do you earn points? How many do you need? Could you explain that again? When is it my turn? The obedience ring seems too strict; no looking at your dog during heeling, watch those double commands, that sit was crooked. (In the classes I teach most folks are just happy to have their unruly dog sit at all.)
What I really need to do is go to some classes myself. One of the disadvantages of living on an island is that it is not always easy to take the time to get off it. The ferry ride is 20 minutes each way, not to mention the wait in line to get on the boat. A trip off the island isn’t complete unless you run at least three other errands to make it worthwhile. So I keep thinking I’ll take classes but there just doesn’t seem to be the time. With teaching 12 classes a week: Level I, Level II and a carting class (more on that next month) time just slips away.
To help me continue to grow and learn about all the different facets of the dog fancy I attend seminars regularly. They give me great ideas, for my classes and personal use. The seminars work out well for me because they are generally held on weekends and are two or three days in a row. Seminars also give me a chance to get to know some of my peers. I read monthly periodicals to keep up to date on all that is going on in the fancy from training to health issues. I volunteer my time as a member of NADOI and communicate with dog obedience instructors throughout the country via e-mail, regular mail, and the telephone. When I go to dog shows I’m always open to suggestions and help, I sometimes even run into fellow NADOI members. I also find help in some of the great dog training books that are available like: The Pearsall Guide to Successful Dog Training by Margaret Pearsall or “Fido, Come!” by Liz Palika.
So, if you are considering becoming a dog obedience instructor or have been involved in training dogs for many years there is an endless supply of information available to help you learn, grow, and reach your goals.
©1996 Carol Cronan