Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 4-H Kick-Off

4-H Dog Training Classes have started and are busily teaching the beginners what dog training is all about and preparing the more advanced students to take their training to the next level!  The K-9 Crusaders is the name of our club and I was a member of this exact club when I was in 4-H.  Nowadays, it's what's known as a SPIN (Special Interest) Club as we focus on only one project, dogs.  In our county, there are also SPIN Clubs for baking, shooting sports, robotics, sewing, etc.  It's a great way for kids interested in a particular project to get info and hands-on instruction.

The thing I love about teaching is seeing the moment someone gets excited and genuinely clicks with a concept.  This year we have a continuing student from last year who did not want to move up to the advanced class.  I think she was comfortable being one of the "better beginners" and wasn't excited about the prospect of not being at the head of the class.  We also use mostly positive reinforcement and motivational techniques in our advanced class and she is most comfortable with more traditional chain collar corrections.  The moment I saw her correctly applying the Fenzi pocket hand to her dog, and loving the result, my heart sang!
A fellow leader teaches the Showmanship class.
Kids and animals are an awesome mix most of the time but it also has it's challenges.  In my ten years of volunteering with the club, we've had some trying times.  I don't want to gloss over these as I hope we have used them as learning experiences.  This year we had a fairly serious dog bite incident where a beginner's dog bit (and kept going for and biting) a Junior Leader who was helping the class.  I felt terrible, so upset that it had happened to a young person who was only trying to help and did nothing to provoke the attack.  I felt bad for the young handler who was upset that it happened and scared what would happen to her dog.  I felt angry at the parents, who had decided this dog was safe to bring to a class of children despite finding out later that it had a bite history with family and friends.  But animals are animals and things will happen.  We got through it, hopefully preserving the young handler's interest in dogs and training for the future.  And we learned from it, hopefully improving our process for registration, screening and intervention in years to come.

My lesson plans this year stress NOT drilling your dog, NOT rehearsing and rehashing the same old trial prep.  Training sessions should not look like the same boring string of exercises you are required to do in the competition ring.  For the most part, the class is willing to try my silly activities but I wonder what their training looks like at home.  I hope if I give them enough options, they'll find a few that they enjoy enough to do on their own.  Any suggestions?  So far we've worked in hand touches, leg weaves/recalls through the handler's legs, games/toys to end heeling without a formal halt, Janice Gunn's cookie toss games for fronts without a formal recall, and we do Shirley Chong's clicker retrieve method.


  1. Can I join your class? Seriously, I would have loved this as a child. And it sounds like I'd love to take your class as an adult as well. What are Janice Gunn's cookie toss games?
    Kelley’s Dog Blog - The A to Z of Dog Shows

    1. Check out this video for cookie games: Thinking about it, I think it is actually an Adelle Yunck thing!