Last night was our first night teaching dog obedience for this year. For those new to the blog, my husband and I volunteer every year to help teach the 4H kids in our county dog obedience so they can show at the county fair in July. It means that our Monday nights are not our own for three months and that we put a lot of sweat and tears, and yes, sometimes a little blood into helping the next generation of dog owners learn about what it really takes to raise and train a dog.
I admit that there are times we’ve thought about quitting, but I honestly don’t think anyone else would step up and do it if we didn’t. I often think back to when I showed my dog in 4H, and that’s what motivates me to keep volunteering. The things I gained are hard to measure and I will be forever grateful that a man named Roy Carr gave up his time for me in much the same way that I do now. He didn’t have kids involved, either, just a love for dogs and an appreciation for the bond that humans can have with their own special dog. I can still remember the stories he told about his Airedale named Trigger. He passed away a year after I gre too old for 4H, and I felt like I’d lost a kindred spirit when I went to his funeral visitation.
I think a lot of people get dogs with the best of intentions, but don’t realize the work that you should put into one. I think that no matter what kind of dog you get or what the age is, you should teach them basic obedience. There are a lot of reasons for this, and most of them are related to safety. Also, it’s a lot more fun to take your dog places when he or she has some manners and will behave for you. Nobody enjoys being dragged around on the end of a leash or having their dog act out of control in public.
A well-behaved dog doesn’t just happen by magic most of the time, though. I also believe that the process of training your dog brings you closer together. Yes, you will make mistakes along the way, and no, your dog won’t always be perfect. There is a closeness and an understanding of each other that you can only get through training. I have learned that each of our dogs learns differently and you sometimes have to think outside the box to get things done.
Mr. Taleteller is always fiddling with teaching the dogs some little trick. It’s not because he has nothing better to do, it’s because he and the dogs both enjoy it, and it gives them a way to plug into each other and unplug from the world for a little bit.
I am really excited about this year’s new crop of kids and dogs in class. A lot of them have never trained before. Some of the dogs have never been off the farm. They will all make gains, though, and I know that each kid will leave in July with a deeper bond with their dog, and the tools they will need to go further and to build a bond with another dog someday. I want to give them the joy that comes from responsible dog ownership.
In an age when we see a lot of people complaining about the next generation, I love being able to see the potential that they have for greatness, too. They just need an avenue to connect with it. If none of us takes time to teach them what we know, what can we expect from them? I want to see dogs in loving homes long after I’m gone, and if I can foster that in a few young people who can share it with a few more, then that’s a good legacy for me.