Thursday, October 11, 2007

Team Training

Belle and I volunteered to assist in our first Team Training session on Tuesday. Belle received some much needed practice in kennel behavior, while I saw first hand how newly placed service dogs and their partners begin their journey together.

What an amazing experience.

A comment that one of the humans in training made, sent me back to the first weeks of working with Belle. She related how she felt she knew so little about how best to work with the dog. The thought she expressed was of the uncertainty she felt in this brave new venture. Oh, how I could relate to that. I came home from our first class together and told Molly Belle was the poster pup for pitiful foster homes. I had had such hopes for our first class, too!

Belle and I had done all our homework, and we'd learned all the first week skills. I headed off to class feeling confident in what we'd accomplished. But I arrived after many of the other puppies. Belle heard their puppy barks and all she could focus on was playing with her litter mates again. It would be my first lesson in foster home humility - and the importance of arriving early to give Belle her best chance to focus. The class was spent with Belle pulling so hard on her leash her gags, chokes, and heavy breathing at times drowned out Eileen's instructions to us. I remember feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, dumb and perplexed. I envied the ease with which my classmates worked with their pups.

I imagine that some of these new teams have had some thoughts like that this week.

My advice to them is don't worry - your partnership won't happen overnight. The two of you will never stop learning together. Remember your successes - and allow them to give you the confidence you will need to work through the inevitable times when frustration sets in. Remember too, sometimes it's just best to do what I saw Claudia and Koda do when both were confused as to how best to communicate with each other. They were working on M & M's and Koda did a "my lap" instead of a "side". Claudia repeated the cue for side and Koda just stayed on her lap. I know both were frustrated - but Claudia did something unexpected and unexpectedly wonderful. She asked Koda to snuggle - and he did. It was a golden moment for both of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


How true......

Sometimes a hug from your dog is the only thing that does make sense.

Nancy and Maisie