Jack loves the experience — so many sights and sounds and smells, so many new things. He’s a bit crazed by all the distractions. And I’m a bit crazed by being new at this dog-handling task.
Here’s the deal. The class is to teach me. I’m supposed to get and keep Jack’s attention and teach him to do things. I have Jack’s treats — baked hot dog slices — in a nail apron from Home Depot.
Jack is learning to walk loosely on the leash. To stop. Sit. Stay. Lie down. Walk slow. Walk fast. Watch me.
And … Come. The “come” command is, according to Tom the instructor, one of the most important things to teach a dog. It can save his life. Say, for instance, he gets out of the back yard and is running straight towards the interstate. Or a rabid dog. Or a herd of elephants. I would yell, “Jack! Come!!” And he would stop in his tracks and run to me (thus, saving his life).
They call this exercise “Release.” I give Jack to the teacher. Taking Jack’s leash with me, I walk to the other side of the exercise ring. I yell, “Jack! Come!!” and the teacher releases Jack. Then Jack races to me.
THE EVIL SQUEAKY TOY CHALLENGE
Last week, the teacher introduced a thing called “a distraction” to this exercise. The assistant teacher stood off to the side with a squeaky toy and squeaked it while the owners were calling the dogs. Jack and I were about 7th in line for the challenge, so he got to hear the squeaking for about five minutes before it was our turn. All that time, waiting in line, I couldn’t get him to look at me, eat a treat, acknowledge my existence. Jack was focused like “Laser Lassie” on the person with the toy.
Then it was our turn. I got in position and yelled, “Jack! Come!!”
And … he ran straight to the person holding the squeaky toy. When I went to get him, I couldn’t catch him. He stayed on the other side of the person with the toy.
The teacher said, “Next time, let’s put him on the long leash …”
I was mortified. But then I realized that there are several ways to look at this challenge:
1. Jack and I failed our “Release” exercise. OR
2. Jack was totally successful in finding the squeaky toy. OR
3. I’m still trying to learn how to get and keep Jack’s attention.
Nonetheless, I can be assured that Jack is truly a Scottish Terrier, a pedigreed, vermin-hunting wonder.
P.S. We’ve had another week to practice. Snd this time at class, Jack and I did a bit better with the squeaky toy challenge. I put him on the long leash, and he mostly ran to me when he was released.
Good dog, Jack. Good girl, Beth.