My Dog School Volunteer Story!
by Elaine Bridgman, Dog School Devon Volunteer // January 2018
My Dog School Volunteer Story!
During the summer this year, we were excited to have our first volunteer come on board, affectionately known by us as lovely Elaine!. Having recently come from the theatrical lighting industry, she became smitten with the canine world after being introduced to a friend’s dog, which inspired her into career change; starting her studies into canine behavior as well as beginning the search for her first ever very special puppy of her own. Elaine is a huge asset to Dog School Devon, being both a very diligent and dedicated volunteer who kindly offers her spare time to help us run classes at two of our training venues. She thoroughly enjoys working with people and their dogs in class.
This month we thought it would be nice for our readers to view a blog from a volunteer’s perspective, so here’s one from Elaine about her dog school journey so far;
My partner and I decided to introduce a puppy into our home earlier this year and in anticipation of her arrival I began reading as much as possible about raising a puppy and soon realised I was completely clueless!
As this was going to be my first ever pet, I wanted to learn everything I could before bringing her home and was determined to find a gentle method of training her to give her the best possible start in life.
This is when I discovered that it was possible to train a puppy with positive reinforcement based methods and applied to be a volunteer for Dog School Devon.
Seeing with my own eyes how successful Dog School Devon’s entirely positive training can be when training dogs of all ages, I knew that this was how I wanted to raise my puppy.
Meet Norah Noodle, now an eleven week old Cockapoo, who has been living with us for three weeks. She is a gentle, loving and confident little puppy but also brings with her a whole range of normal puppy behaviours that nonetheless need working on and in the right way.
I have learned from Dog School Devon that being calm and teaching Norah to settle are valuable tools when using positive reinforcement methods. Teaching her that making the right choices brings good things ‘in the form of reward’ which is fundamental to her training. Using enrichment toys like Kongs, antler chews and even cardboard boxes and plastic bottles to hide her treats in, stimulates her mind and harnesses her natural abilities to sniff out and search for food and can tire her out as much as a good run around the garden.
She has learned her sit and down at home in the kitchen and our next step is to add distractions and duration, so that she sits politely when people are approaching and waits before going through doorways, in order to keep her safe.
Tomorrow will be the much anticipated day of Norah’s first walk. We’ve been practicing at home using techniques that I have learned in class, so that she is comfortable with me putting on her harness and used to walking on a lead. We are so excited about showing her the outside world and taking her on walks in the Devon countryside and beaches, so teaching her a solid recall will be our next challenge in the coming weeks.
Tiga, Dawn and Cheryl have very kindly shared their knowledge and experience with me and I have learned so much from them individually as well as working with them as part of the Dog School Devon team. Cheryl has been both a veterinary nurse and a groomer in the past and has advised me how to handle Norah and which tools to use to keep her coat free from matts.
Dawn has brought along Oscar, a dog that she looks after, to class, so I could have some hands-on experience from the owner’s side of the classroom and better understand the perspective of both managing your dog and concentrating on the lessons.
Also, watching Tiga work in a one-on-one training session with dogs has reinforced my belief that positive reinforcement methods produce the most amazing and effective results.
If anyone reading this would like to gain some valuable dog training experience I can thoroughly recommend volunteering for Dogs School Devon, I have had a brilliant time and enjoyed every minute of the classes and can genuinely say that I have learned so much towards raising Norah the best possible way.