Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sensei Hoagie

The boys and I enjoyed a nice SLODOG run through today.  It was another beautiful, sunny, winter day in San Luis Obispo.  (Though I miss ya'll out east, I love being back in CA.  It's hard to beat 70 degrees in January.)


As the new Rally Obedience organizer for run throughs, I had more on my plate than simply managing my two hooligans, but I think I fared alright.  Everyone seemed to enjoy my first attempt at designing a course, and importantly, I don't think too many people got lost mid-run.

Hoagie had a nice couple runs, but not before he taught me an important lesson.  Hoagie apparently shares a motto with Ben and Jerry's of ice cream fame: "If it's not fun, why do it?"  He reminded me that training, competing, and working with dogs is supposed to be, above all, FUN!


Hoagie does love ice cream.

I started practice today by marching directly over to the Rally course with Hoagie in tow, set my shoulders, took a breath, and walked towards the first sign.  I noticed fairly quickly that the pup wasn't terrible "into it."  His nose hit the grass and stayed there through the first two signs.  I gave him a couple gentle tugs to keep him moving. His gaze instead switched to the bushes on the other side of the park and he firmly planted his butt on the ground.  He wasn't having any of it; Hoagie checked out and left no forwarding address.

Sensing I wasn't going to get any more out of him for the moment, we broke course and headed over to the adjacent empty field.  There we watered a couple trees, and took a mental break.  We checked out the bushes he was concerned about, he earned a couple treats when he looked back to me.  Together we did a few of his favorite tricks.  I realized that when we started doing tricks, both of us relaxed.  His face softened up, he gave me his full attention, and instead of wanting to drag me around, he happily heeled by my side.  The light bulb went off above my head.

Good grief, my mom is dense sometimes.

I was being entirely too serious about running through the Rally course.  The reason we started Rally Obedience instead of formal Obedience competition was because of it's relaxed attitude, the ability to talk to and encourage your dog on course, and the emphasis on having FUN together!  Heck, part of your score in a trial is whether the dog looks like he's enjoying himself!

Once we were both more relaxed, Hoagie happily trotted back to the course with me.  I used an upbeat tone (and a couple nibbles of cheese) to encourage him through the signs, and he gleefully obliged.  We finished with a big hooray, a puppy high five, and a big bite of liver treat.

Oh yeah!  Gimme some paw!

Hoagie has been, and continues to be my master teacher in all things doggy.  Don't get me wrong; the folks at Gentle Touch Pet Training, and Canine Academy are amazing instructors!  I've also learned tons from incredible dog authors such as Patricia McConnell, Karen London, and Karen Pryor.  Hoagie however is the Mr. Miyagi to my Daniel-san.  He's taught me an unbelievable amount about how his little puppy brain works, the relationship humans have with animals, and the importance of learning to relax and have fun!

Teacher Hoagie wants you to hit the books.

Today Hoagie reminded me that we ought to do dog sports because our dogs enjoy them.  I could have forced him to finish that first attempt.  I could have yanked him around the course, scolding him for sniffing and pleading for his attention.  Would that have been fun for either of us?

Skeptical Hoagie is skeptical.


So, instead, here's to many more fun practices with my pooches!  Here's to happy pups and a relaxed dog Mom.  Here's to doing it for the dog, not for the ribbons and titles!

I look forward to many more lessons with my puppy professor.  As long as I'm ready to listen, Hoagie has plenty to teach.

And now, with Pretzel in the house, I have a second professional perspective to learn from!  (And you can bet the Terrier School of Doggy Education definitely has a challenging new curriculum for me to study.)


Professor Pretzel says:  "This will be on the test."

Have fun listening to your dogs!  They definitely have lots to teach, as long as you are willing to listen!


P.S.  Yes, I do love staging elaborate and silly dog photos.  Don't judge me!  You know it's cute!


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