We have a new teacher for our San Diego puppy classes. This will have the greatest effect on Steve and me in the future (assuming we continue to raise CCI puppies), as Beverly only will be able to attend a maximum of three more classes (one September 25 and two in October) before we turn her in for Advanced Training November 3. Still last week’s session (our first with the new instructor) felt like an exciting development.
When we first began raising CCI pups almost 13 years ago, our teacher was a long-time San Diego policeman whose day job involved working with the SDPD canine corps. Mike was very entertaining, his classes were focused, and we learned a lot in them. Unfortunately, he eventually became disillusioned with the police force, retired, and moved to New Mexico. Since then, we’ve had two other teachers. While both were pleasant enough people and skilled at training dogs, working with them reminded us that good teachers of humans need other skills (and unfortunately, neither of them had the key ones). Steve and I spent too many sessions feeling bored or frustrated.
The new teacher promises something different. She has raised a number of aspiring service dogs (including a current one for CCI), plus she has a little business teaching dog training to private clients. So she’s familiar with the CCI program and expectations, as wasn’t always the case with the last two teachers. Kay seems to have a vision for what she wants to communicate, and her energy level is high enough that it woke me up (along with everyone else, or so it seemed).
She says she wants all of us (even the Advanced group) to go “back to basics” and work on getting our dogs to focus intently whenever we call their name, heaping praise on them and using treats liberally every time they give us that rapt attention. In our first session under her direction, we went through several exercises designed to get the dogs to continue gazing at whomever was handling them in the face of some significant distraction. (Sometimes we traded dogs.) It was challenging.
It’s been even tougher to try to apply that at home, where we have plenty of distractions of our own. But it’s nice to have something to work on during this final stretch.