Edinburgh Dog School Volunteer event

by Caroline Bradford // July 2017

Edinburgh Dog School Volunteer event

At the Edinburgh Dog School we are lucky to have a good team of volunteers to help with our training classes. What would we do without them? The volunteers do a range of great jobs to help the classes run smoothly:

  • Set up the room with an individual bay for each dog
  • Fill kongs with for our dogs to enjoy in class and then clean them afterwards!
  • Help with cleaning up those little ‘accidents’
  • Keep records of attendance and progress for each dog
  • Make sure our owners get the right homework and handouts

It sometimes feels like our volunteers spend a lot of time cleaning out slobbery kongs, but we know they are also keen to learn new things and develop the skills they have, so we are running a training event so that our volunteers can be more involved in the classes. There are three sessions; one each week. In the first session we talked about all the things volunteers can help us with and discussed dog body language to help our volunteers understand when they should and shouldn’t approach a dog in our class. Some dogs find the class a little overwhelming at first and they need time to adjust; our volunteers help to spot those dogs and let us know where extra support might be needed. Volunteers can also help to guide the owners of these dogs when they first arrive, making sure anxious dogs are given the right space in the class, and helping owners to understand that their anxious dogs can hide until they are ready to join in.

Looking out for these dogs is just one of the jobs volunteers do as ‘an extra pair of eyes’. They can also help spot when an owner is struggling with an exercise and alert a coach. But some of our volunteers are now experienced enough to help the owners with some of our simple exercises like settle. This is all about teaching dogs to relax when there is no attention available from their owners. Some dogs find this difficult and like to make a noise to let us know – our volunteers are being trained in the art of ‘settle’ to help support and remind owners how to work on this during the class. It’s all about using treats to reward the dogs for not seeking attention from their owners. Owners also find it hard to withdraw their attention from their dogs so volunteers help to remind them what to do. Macey our young cocker spaniel shows how a settle is really done; switching off from her owner and relaxing patiently until the next treat appears.

Our volunteers are also great at offering distractions while our dogs are practicing their loose lead walking, recall and polite greetings. Our Skye terrier Murdo shows off that even with volunteer Anna making lots of encouraging noises, he can still focus on his owner.

The next two training sessions will give the volunteers a chance to practice on real dogs. Watch this space to see how we get on.

If you're interested in volunteering please keep an eye on our page, we will let you know if we're looking for more volunteers!