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Canine Companions

June 8, 2020

Carol Lea Benjamin, one of my favorite canine training authors, wrote an article many years ago titled, “Do something, dog trainer!” She was not referring to professionally involved individuals, but to all of us who share our homes with clever and cunning canines, encouraging all of us to “get busy” with them.

At an obedience trial a few months ago, I was captivated by a couple of competitive teams in particular. Both of these were senior-senior citizens (one with cane in hand), who proudly and delightfully put their two “forever best friends” through their advanced exercises. Many hours of training and preparation had preceded these performances. Though both teams had some missteps, their connection and delight with each other, the excitement with the process, and their elation with the accomplishment (qualification notwithstanding) left more than a couple of us with a moist eye. I was touched by their relationship and moved by the love, communication, and trust that existed between the two. I saw those dogs and handlers later that day, each individual at their own vehicle having lunch alone, with their beautiful canine companions resting after their arduous tasks — but, wait, did I say “alone?” That’s the point — neither person was alone. They may have attended the competition without a human companion, but they each shared the event with a friend, family member, devoted companion — their dogs!

I thought about how little it takes to have our canine kids “eating out of our hands” and fulfilling their potential. If more of us understood our pack leader status as “dog trainer” (i.e. mentor, guide, empowerer, etc.), far fewer canines would end up in revolving-placement doors. Setting a training goal can and should go far beyond housebreaking, leash-walking, and general house manners. So many four-legged individuals are chomping at the bit (I mean leash) to display their pack and predatory drives for us. Do something, dog trainer! Try your hand (and theirs) at tracking, enroll in a class and set a goal for a Canine Good Citizen or Therapy Dog International certificate. Let them be rewarded and fulfilled by the “find” or their therapeutic visit. Try your hand (and their paws) at Rally or Agility. These disciplines are fun, challenging, and a great introduction into the world of Dog Sports. The venues are endless. Get your feet wet, and let your dog take you to his or her chosen field. An added benefit is that many a troubled dog has been rehabilitated by the training and discipline of competitive events. When restrictions are lifted, go to the AKC website, find the Events Calendar section, and attend a local show to whet your appetite. Who knows.

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