Jack and I are taking a Level 1 Obedience class at the Nashville Dog Training Club. We are halfway through the class of eight weeks. There are about 10 people and their dogs taking the class.
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.