The past few weeks have been hectic around here with my students getting ready to take their Royal Schools of Music exams, and obedience trials just around the corner. The days go by so quickly, and before I know it, a whole week has passed and I have trained my dog but once.
I love operant conditioning (a method of dog training using positive techniques and negative punishment) because I find that my dogs retain what I teach them for long periods, even when I don’t get a chance to revisit the behaviors. Athena, who won the Novice trial last November with High in Trial, will be entering Beginners in a few weeks. My various jobs prevent me from focusing on her training they way I’d like to.
It’s been many weeks since I’ve worked her out of the yard and proofed any of her exercises. She performs beautifully in the yard, but the challenge will come in the form of the myriad distractions on the day of the show. I do what I can.
I came to the realization some time ago, that if I waited until I managed to train consistently (like everyday for a month) before entering a trial, I’d never enter another obedience trial until I was retired. By then my dogs would all be dead, and I’d have to start all over again. I made a resolution to enter at least two trials every year. It is my ambition to put obedience titles on at least two of my seven dogs.
So, here I am, trying to balance the work that I do with my human students, which I love, with the work that I do with my dog students, which I also love. I’m tough on my human students because I not only teach them how to play the piano, but provide them with life skills that will serve them well.
I’m gradually learning to lighten up with myself where my dog training is concerned. I do this for the sheer joy of training an animal. I learn so many other skills in the process, and learn about myself, too. Trials are an opportunity for me to enter the obedience ring with my best friend, my canine partner, to show the world what we’ve got, and most of all to have fun. At the end of the trial, regardless of the outcome, I still get to take the dog home.