Helicopters and Cookies
Riddle goes to canine class and realises that it‘s not man’s best friend that needs the training.….
Article and Photography by Andy Barnham
Following Canine Control, it was suggested that Gypsy be taken to dog training. Despite initial reservations and the belief that Gypsy is perfect, an opportunity arose recently to put my theory to the test and obtain proof that any training would be superfluous. The opportunity came while at the Old Swan & Minster Mill during a weekend away. The training was scheduled for the afternoon and I thought it best to take Gypsy for a long walk in the morning in the hope that she wouldn’t be full of energy for her first lesson.
Conducted by the Cotswolds Pet Services, the training kicked off with a quick assessment of the four dogs, all different breeds, who were booked into the class with Gypsy being the youngest and biggest of the bunch. When it became apparent that three of the four dogs were city dogs (all from London) with the last being a local lad, the importance of canine country etiquette was stressed; locally a dog recently frightened a horse which resulted in the rider being thrown off and dying from their injuries.
A quick lesson plan was formulated bringing together common misbehaviour and an hour passed quickly. After the lesson, the owners and their charges headed to the Inn & Mill for tea and (home made) chocolate cookies and I can accurately say that Gypsy didn’t need the lesson – I did. I needed the lesson to learn more about dog behaviour and how man’s best friend learns; positive association and repetition. She does something good and she gets rewarded, but not in the form of treats, as I’ve never wanted her to be food motivated, she’s rewarded with affection. What it very important is the timing of the affection; it needs to be immediate. If not, then the positive association could be linked to something completely unsuitable. For example the owner who treated his dog when a helicopter went past meant that his dog then wanted a treat every time a helicopter was overhead.
I’m not sure which stimulated conversation more, the tea or the home made cookies, but what was for certain was the theme of the conversation; how educational the lesson had been and the negative experiences the other owners had suffered. One owner had been to lessons once a week for six weeks and had been made to feel like the mother of a naughty school child. Another owner had different family members in a household of five attend different lessons and all learned different things; thus their dog had no consistency between family members.
What was clear was that it is the simple things that make the most difference. Easy to get right and equally easy to get wrong, but the difference in your dog will be profound.
Enquiries: Old Swan & Minster Mill, Old Minster, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, Cotswolds, OX29 0RN, ENGLAND /01993 774441 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.oldswanandminstermill.com
Cotswolds Pet Services: 4 Mill View, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3HJ/ 01451 861870/ email@example.com/ http://www.cotswoldpetservices.co.uk/index.php?route=common/home