First graduate, June 11, 2020


Meet Toby, my first graduate with the reopening of training facilities in our community. Toby and his human partner completed intermediate level with me and most of my advanced program, before the pandemic hiatus. They returned earlier this month to finish advanced training and obtain their advanced certificate. Watching Toby and his pet parent work together now, is a true joy, and a testament to the real potential of dog and human teams when we commit to training as a lifestyle and not just something that happens for a few months, while our dogs are puppies.

Toby first came to my intermediate class at 11 months of age, and like most teenagers, he struggled with distraction and the ability to focus. Still, he was smart enough to grasp the necessary skills. A few months later he was back to complete the advanced classes, a little older, calmer, more receptive to working, due in part to simple maturity, and to his pet parent’s steady dedication to training, throughout his adolescence.

Come this August, Toby and his owner will be returning to join other students for the therapy dog program, and I can’t wait to participate in their partnership, once again.

Summer is usually quiet when it comes to dog training, however, like so many things due to COVID-19 restrictions, this season’s turning out to be very different…and very, very busy.

It’s only late June, new classes are filling almost faster than we can post them online. A great many people have adopted a furry little family addition over the past two months, or they were ready for classes a couple of months ago and are anxious to start training with their older puppies and adult dogs. By necessity, my curriculum has been tailored to suit our new COVID-19 reality which, paradoxically, makes for a richer classroom experience. With the observance of social distancing and smaller class sizes, pet parents and dogs get more individual attention. With the addition of masks (optional), I’m getting better adherence with hand signals; and with the requirement to maintain a six-foot distance from each other, pet parents become more skilled in managing their companions from several feet away.

To borrow from that famous line of Forest Gump, dog training is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get.

Just this week I finished teaching the last three sessions of a beginner class that had been interrupted by the pandemic hiatus. This was a large group of eight originally, with several full-grown, powerful, reactive dogs, including but not limited to an Argentinean Dogo, a very solid terrier/boxer cross, a Siberian Husky, a game little Boston Terrier, and a 10 week old Golden Doodle puppy I had sheltered in a corner. It was the most challenging class I've run, to date. Those first three weeks were like standing in a powder keg. Air horn at the ready, I was constantly on my guard for problems.

Of those original eight, four returned recently to finish their last three weeks and, ironically, those that did were the Husky, the terrier/boxer cross, the game little Boston Terrier and (thankfully now much bigger and able to hold her own) the Golden Doodle puppy.

Time and fewer numbers had such a positive effect on the dynamics of this class. These particular pet parents continued to work on what they’d learned in the first three weeks so when they returned there was a marked improvement in both the management of their dogs and the skill level of the dogs themselves. For those final three weeks, the new four dog class maximum meant everyone could spread out. Both dogs and owners were much more relaxed and able to work and…every one of these dogs will be moving up to intermediate level.

There have been several requests to address potty training as well (an additional and very valuable part of my job). These seminars have not yet been approved but I’m hopeful for the fall and, in the meantime, if you and your puppy are struggling, check out two of my earlier blog posts to tide you over:

THE DOG BLOG is a great resource for tips on training and canine well being. Got questions or a topic in mind? Let me know via the comments box. I would love to hear from you.