A sweet young Golden Retriever mix, named Bella, came to her first group C.L.A.S.S. in January 2012. She and her owner were very green in their relationship and new to training. Sadly, Bella and her owner had recently lost an important member of their family who they were both very close. They were both unsure how to relate to each other in this new life situation, but they were willing to learn.
Bella had never learned how to connect with humans prior to joining the class. She enjoyed being a dog playing outside, hunting little critters and living it up with little need for human connection. Her owner wanted to build that relationship so they could enjoy life together–things many dog owners may take for granted like going on walks around the neighborhood.
During the first few sessions, Bella showed signs of stress. She would shy away from working with the instructor even with amazing treats and pulled towards the door to try to get outside to where she felt safe. Her owner tried a variety of special rewards just for class and lots of patience. It wasn’t always easy for Bella or her owner. They were learning how to relate each week by working through small amounts of stress, patience and time.
At the end of the 6-week course Bella and her owner had progressed nicely. They were working more together with less and less effort. The connection was visible, but still weak and irregular. Her owner decided another round of Canine Life and Social Skills at the B.A. level would be a good idea to keep their relationship building on the right track.
Retaking a course may seem silly to some and even I may have thought that early in my dog training education, wanting to achieve more and more with my own dogs. The result it had for Bella and her owner was amazing! The curriculum held the same behaviors they had just completed, but added additional criteria such as: more distractions, more eye connection offered by Bella, longer stays, quicker response to cues and building more confidence. The Bella we knew from week 1 had almost vanished and transformed into a much more confident dog who enjoyed working with her human. Her story will be one I’ll use as an example for years to come for those who are resistant to redoing a course.
While the reason for their coming to group class was somewhat tragic in their loss, these two found each other through a course that teaches life skills–the skills to connect and communicate while building a relationship during 12-weeks of C.L.A.S.S.
Paula Nowak is a C.L.A.S.S. Evaluator, K9 Nose Work® Certified Instructor, and Certified Trick Dog Instructor.
Canine Country Academy, LLC www.CanineCountryAcademy.com
New Rattitude Rat Terrier Rescue www.NewRattitude.org