Launching Rocket: The Start of Obedience Training
Fred and Ginger we weren't. Maybe Lucy and Desi.. Or Abbott and Costello. What can I say? It was our first week of competitive obedience training for Rocket, and neither of us was really on our game. I've got big plans for my puppy, Rocket. Usually my training work involves basic “real world” training and working with dogs with issues. Barking, jumping, or worse, “problem” dogs, frequently misunderstood; this type of seat-of-your-pants type training is my first love. But I want to compete in obedience competitions, which are a whole different world, with Rocket, as well as conformation. I want to show he has beauty AND brains. Proving he has a brain at this point is a difficult thing.
Rocket's a big, slow growing dog. Goofy and good tempered, intact and figuring out what that means, he's nine months old and just learned to hike his leg. Oh yeah, keeping Rocket on track now is not easy. I'd lose his attention in a class. I decided a class situation wasn't right for Rocket at this point. He needs individual work. And I wanted a really good trainer, well schooled not only in general obedience, but in competitive obedience as well, and in line with my way of training. Enter Adele Yunck, owner of Northfield Dog Training.
I booked a 30 minute class for him and showed up a few minutes early so that Rocket would have time to settle before I asked him to think. Expecting any dog, but especially a puppy, to focus on you when he's in a new place full of exciting sounds, scents, and sights will be frustrating at best for both of you. Rocket had settled some by the time we started, until, that is, he caught sight of the distraction toys. These are toys used during training to teach a dog to ignore unusual sounds while working. Let's just say they fulfilled their destiny.
Rocket play bowed and barked at the toys, forgot the word “sit”, and couldn't get over seeing himself in the full length mirror. I was embarrassingly all thumbs. Between his distraction and my ineptitude at such formal work after a long break from it, we were quite a comedy of errors. Me? I'll get more comfortable with the work before long. Rocket? The same sense of self-preservation that makes us look before we step into the street, even when the “walk” sign is lit contributed to Rocket's distraction. With time he'll become more accustomed to the building, the other dogs, all the sounds of other dogs having fun working on the agility obstacles. I'm not worried about it. We worked until he was done; tired, brain full of new things, no more ability to concentrate. No sense trying to get him back. I went home all geeked about training again, new training book tucked under my arm, looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.
It doesn't take much time. We work 10 minutes or so in the morning, another 10 in the evening. Eventually it will be more time consuming. Rocket loves the work and just can't contain himself when I pull out the collar I use for this type of training. For his conformation ring work he wears a different collar and lead combo, his general walks he still does in his harness.
If you're looking for a trainer I can't recommend Adele highly enough. There are lots of good trainers out there; for me, Adele is the perfect fit. She understands dogs, has vast knowledge, and, most importantly to me, is flexible in her approach. Training a big puppy sometimes takes a more novel approach to things than training, say, a medium-sized mix. Having a trainer with the experience to suss out what's best for your dog will make your work progress much faster, and with less frustration. It doesn't matter whether you're going after a nice string of letters after your dog's name or you just want a dog who's a pleasure to walk down the street.
Even if you're not looking to compete in obedience, the book I picked up is reading I can't recommend highly enough. Called “Competitive Obedience: A Balancing Act”, and written by Judy Byron and Adele Yunck, it is worth reading for its wealth of information. Northfield Dog Training holds many group classes as well as private classes with Adele. They are located on Ellsworth Rd., just west of Wagner. They're website address is: www.northfielddogtraining.com and their phone number is: 734-995-7200.