Thursday, April 11, 2013

Training Dreams

Because of the nature of my Google alerts, an article on dog training at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Because I am super smart, I both went "Hey, working dog center?" and "are they the same people that do PennHip?" (yes, they are. ish. It's at the University of Pennsylvania, anyway. And they have the same little ikon in the Chrome tabs that I'm looking at. Good enough for me!). Of course my next question was "Well, what kind of working dogs?", and that took me a surprising amount of time to figure out (a fail on my part, not theirs)

On the front page of the Training Center portion of the web site, they have their Training Philosophy:
"Our training program focuses on developing a well-rounded, social, driven dog capable of excellent detection work. We believe in utilizing positive training methods and incorporating real world scenarios. A unique combination of intense daily training combined with full-time family living makes our program the only one of its kind."
So that's cool; the things they list are ideal for any working dog, really. A well socialized dog makes good decisions. A well rounded dogs has many skills an experiences to draw from. A driven dog wants to work. And "detection work"? Well, that's what dogs are doing when they're involved with search and rescue missions. NPR covered the opening of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, which occurred just this past September. It makes sense; many of the dogs are named after dogs who worked in the rescue, wreckage, and landfill operations during and after the evens of September 11, 2011 in New York City.

But anyway. According to the original article that led me here, the classes that the Penn Vet Working Dog Center are for Tricks, First Aid, and preparation for the Canine Good Citizen class. I frequently wish that resources like this were closer to where I live; I would jump at a change to attend a training center such as this one.

That's right. I have training envy, I admit it.

Last year, we went to Albany to attend a friend's wedding. We arrived at the park where the outdoor ceremony was to be held, earlier than everybody else. It was a beautiful day, and we got out of the car to enjoy the sun and admire the river, and I noticed somebody walking a Doberman! Of course I wanted to go see him. Who cares if I was in heels and a cocktail-ish dress? The owner seemed surprised when I approached, and at something of a remove I asked if it was all right to say hi. I explained that I had a Doberman myself, though she was home. His dog (whose name I forget; isn't that horrible?) wasn't interested in me in the slightest, a rarity, but I didn't push the issue with him. They had a club they were attending later in the day, where they trained for French Ring Sport. The dog's "down" cue was "couchez". If I didn't live an hour away from Albany, I could attend a working dog club with my Doberman. Some Googling reveals a few clubs of that nature, though I'm not sure which one this gentleman was discussing. There's another club in the other direction, too, in (or just past) Binghamton. An hour as well, of course.

Of course, some people do things like that. They make the time. My non-working hours are pretty full as it is, though, without travel time like that added in. I've thought about doing the online course for the Karen Pryor Clicker Training Academy, either Dog Trainer Professional (the long one, which is the actual "certification" one so far as the academy goes) or the Dog Trainer Foundations one, which is online and gives you the basics. I think if you continue onto the "long" class within a year of completing the "short" one, there's a discount. But still. There are any number of excuses. My current full time job, for one. I don't know if I'll like the online learning style, for two, and tuition is non refundable once enrollment is complete (you pay upon enrollment). The cost itself (though people in groups of 5 or more, or people who work with shelters/rescues get a very discounted rate, which is nice).

Maybe my excuses come from a lack of motivation? I talk about how maybe I'd like to be a dog trainer "when I grow up", but it's an item on the list. I want to be a published author, too, which I can do a bit more easily from my couch. I don't have to drive anywhere to write and edit a novel, look for agents, email a query letter. Granted, if I attended a writer's conference, there are a number of opportunities there as well (categorically similar opportunities to if I attended BlowPaws, really). I'm mostly comfortable here, on my couch. My motivation comes and goes; it's better in the summer (and when we really have a spring...things are looking up, but I'm still suspicious).


  1. Lol, sounds like we have a LOT in common Jen!

    I have to admit, I was once lucky enough to live within driving distance of a really good Schutzhund obedience class - just obedience, not tracking or protection.

    These days I sit on my couch and write and tell my current canine companions that they're lucky I don't have time for that sort of thing at the moment....
    I'm guessing that Elka is pretty well behaved, even if she isn't ready for search and rescue work :-)

    1. Oh yes, she isn't too bad at all. If she was higher drive, I'd be in real trouble! She comes from working lines, technically, but a couple of generations back. It all goes to pot once the lines come to America.

  2. WE has no FUN training things here either. We have a "family dog center" but the owner has a rawhide stuck up her bum and mom doesn't like her views on dog training..her view is as if we aren't 'Family'


  3. I heard that NPR story... Very cool. I am so lucky to have an awesome trainer nearby. She has helped me train 3 dogs so far. Positive training is so much fun, and clicker training seems miraculous when your dog truly understands it.

    My motivation ebbs and flows too. I think that the most important thing is that the trainer is really into it, so it's good to follow your gut feeling of enthusiasm or lack of it! One time, I admitted to my trainer that I hadn't felt like training Shyla all week. She was actually happy that I had followed my gut rather than forcing it :)

  4. I so know what you mean. When I was doing Rally with Toby, I looked and looked and looked, but I could not find a Rally trainer who did not use corrections, and I didn't want to use them. Then I found out there is a training center an hour and a half north of me, without counting traffic passing through the NYC area to get there, that does all competitive obedience and rally without corrections - and while I did drive up there for two seminars and a private lesson, I don't have the ambition to train that far away on a regular basis!

  5. I like taking the training classes with Delilah. We've learned so much. I've thought of Karen Pryor too but ridiculously expensive if you ask me.