09/01/2012 - By Gayle M. Irwin
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As children hit the books once again, now might be a good time to also think of schooling your dog. How is that possible, you might ask? Consider taking your dog through obedience or agility training.
Most dogs need activity to prevent boredom, especially the breeds of the herding, working and hunting classifications, such as border collies, German shepherd dogs, huskies, spaniels, setters and pointers. These and many other breeds respond well to training and to agility and hunting trials. Keeping a dog occupied with instruction alleviates boredom and thus also lessens bad behaviors, such as chewing, howling, and jumping. Working dogs were bred to work, and many canine club events provide that opportunity.
A variety of prospects abound in the area to enroll your dog in school. Many local trainers teach obedience, including Creature Comforts, Sit Means Sit, and Prairie Wind Kennels. Additionally, a class is held each semester at Casper College, for both adult dogs and puppies. The Central Wyoming Kennel Club and the Central Wyoming Agility Club offer various events and opportunities as well. Visit http://www.centralwyomingkennelclub.org/index.html and http://wyomingagility.com/, respectively.
In October, for example, an American Kennel Club (AKC)-sanctioned agility trial will take place in Casper. According to animal behavior specialists, training a dog has been shown to be the single most important thing that keeps a dog in its "forever" home. Training builds a mutual bond, enhances the pet-human partnership, and enriches the relationship a person shares with his/her dog. Dogs that are not trained in at least basic obedience are often the dogs that are left with animal shelters and rescue groups with the excuse, "I can't handle this dog." Just like spending time with one's children, focusing on their concerns, their joys, their interests, creates a stronger parent-child relationship, so, too, spending time with one's dog develops a stronger pet-human relationship. Obedience training bonds a dog more closely with its owner, for that interaction time is quality time. Dogs are pack animals; they are social, and they want to engage with their people. Obedience, agility, hunting, tracking, even animal assistance therapy training strengthens a dog's bond with its human.
Having a pet in the home can be a physical and emotional health benefit to people. Scientists have documented the positive effects pets have on humans, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Yet, if your dog doesn't come when it's called, jumps on people constantly, and takes the hamburger off the counter while you're waiting for the grill to get hot, obviously your stress level is going to be very high, not lower. But, if your dog sits and waits patiently, returns upon command, and doesn't chase the neighbor's cat, everyone will be happier, including your dog.
So, consider taking your dog – and yourself – back to school this fall! Become involved with a local obedience class, an agility, conformation, or track and field event. Learn together, become more deeply bonded, and enjoy the companionship, affection, and devotion your special dog longs to give you… if you will only give your dog the time and opportunity it needs!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker with a strong background in animal welfare. She is the author of several books about her dogs. Her newest book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, will be released later this month. Additionally, two short stories will be in new editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul in September and October. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.