It's official; the annual Summer Parks Challenge 2019 has begun on May 1 and will run all the way through the end of summer!
Training in novel locations is so so so helpful! You can add distractions, you can increase difficulty, you can practice in real-life settings and more. And with the part of Oregon that we're so lucky to live in, you've got lots of cool places to choose from!
Here's the assignment: Pick a pack. It could be an easy park, a hard park, big or small, in Portland or wherever. It could be nearby or far away. It could be somewhere that you're familiar with (a good idea) or somewhere you've never been before (more challenging for the handler.) Once you've got your park in mind, decide what you want to practice. Loose-leash walking and attention work is always good for novice dogs; for more advanced dogs you could do some obedience such as stays, settles or recalls. Of course distraction training is always available -- squirrels, other dogs, people, bikes and more are almost always present. Head out for your training adventure and have a good time. Take a photo of your dog posing by the park sign and then send it to the Facebook page or Instagram with #kpparks2019 and that's all you have to do!
After your outing, think about how you've done -- keeping a written training log to go along with your fun photos is helpful here. What did your dog do well with, and what needs improvement? Maybe obedience went great and your dog was very responsive to cues when asked, but was otherwise pulling and sniffing around in an uncontrolled manner. Or maybe your dogs leash skills were good and relaxed, but he didn't seem to remember any obedience cues at all or his "stay" seemed rusty. Whatever the weak spots are, they should be practiced at home and then tried again the next time you head out.
Things to keep in mind for your next park outing: As the summer gets warmer, bring water for your dog (and probably yourself.) Remember that a park is an uncontrolled training environment, and you'll have to watch for things like loose dogs, loose children, wildlife, etc that may distract your dog. If your dog is reactive to any specific triggers (such as lunging or barking at dogs, it's a good idea to scout out your parks in advance so you know your dog will be successful at the location you choose (for example, dog-reactive dogs tend to do poorly in parks with unfenced offleash areas, though working at a distance from a fenced offleash area can be a very good, helpful practice. Make sure your leash and all equipment is in good shape. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that won't slip even if the ground is wet or muddy. Then, go and have a good time! And remember to take a photo and #kpparks2019!