Basic obedience workshops were fabulous!
by Marcia Mathis
A well-behaved dog is a desirable dog. How much more appealing to a potential adopter would our Mobile SPCA dogs be if they were well-mannered?
In an effort to give every dog the best chance possible to sell themselves to a new family, the Mobile SPCA offered training classes to all volunteers who handle our pooches. Each person who interacts, walks and socializes our dogs can help them become all they can be with just a little effort. And if we all expend the same type of effort in a uniform manner, the dogs will be less confused and more likely to learn.
Tom Royal was kind enough to come to Mobile from SPCA Tampa Bay for four days' worth of training for 35 of our volunteers and staff. We were given the option of working with our own dog or using one of our adoptable dogs for the training exercise. As both my Kaiti Jane and I need LOTS of work, I opted for the former while everyone else in the class chose a shelter dog.
Luckily, it was not raining. Unluckily, it was windy as all get-out. But about eight or ten of us, armed with a fabric bag-o-treats (a big shout out to Universal Hardware for donating nail bags which were perfect for this use) collared and leashed our dogs and stood at attention in a big circle.
The instructor was knowledgeable and patient, demonstrating safety techniques, the proper way to administer praise and treats and various handling instructions and skills. From the preferred way to meet-and-greet a strange dog - which surprisingly is completely different from my way (run up to them making kissy sounds and talking baby talk) to helpful commands like "sit", "come", "stay", "wait", and a number of walking instructions with turns and side steps (all accomplished with varying degrees of success depending on the dog and of course the handler). Some of us had very smart dogs. Some of us had rather...strong-willed dogs. And some of the dogs had better handlers than others but I'm not naming names.
However, my Kaiti Jane, who is incredibly smart...gifted, actually...but who has a little stubborn streak (I have NO idea where that came from, probably her daddy) was doing quite well until the gale-force wind I earlier mentioned blew the whiteboard down - twice - right next to her which pretty much sent her into a fear-driven downward spiral that she never really recovered from.
But it was a fun-filled, information-packed two hours though, and we volunteers learned a lot that hopefully we'll be able to use during off-site adoptions and walking/socialization at the shelter. And the dogs seemed to have fun too because after all, the only thing a dog wants is to make his human happy. And praise for a job well-done will set any dog's tail to wagging. Well, that and a pound of dried turkey-dog treats. (Which are not bad...Robin and I tried some.)
We certainly appreciate Tom for coming to Mobile to provide such informative and useful classes to all of us. Armed with this knowledge and a little unified effort, we can make our MSPCA dogs - and volunteers! - the very best they can be.
Note: Tom went graduated from the Tampa Bay SPCA’s "Family Dog Trainer" class in April of 2009. He instructs, as primary or assistant, in basic obedience classes offered to the public in Tampa Bay. Tom assists Donna in private behavioral consultation sessions. He mentors new volunteers in safety, handling and kennel protocols and etiquette. He assists in dog assessments and works with shelter dogs' obedience and socialization. He assists potential adopters in dog selection and performs dog introductions of shelter dog and adopter's owned dog. Tom also works offsite adoption events for Tampa Bay SPCA. And if that’s not enough, Tom is a volunteer and foster home for Florida Boxer Rescue and works adoption events for them as well.
SPOTLIGHT ON VOLUNTEERS:
Heather and Steven Morris