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Preparing for Class

Dust off those leashes and treat pouches -- it's classtime!

Whether you and your dog faithfully attend lots and lots of classes or whether this is the very first class you've ever attended, if you've enrolled your dog in a class and are just waiting for the first session, here are some simple things you can do to prepare!

1) Get your dog out of the house. Some dogs literally are never taken out of the house EVER (usually this is because the dog is too wild and/or too much of a pain and/or pulls too hard on the leash -- hence, signing up for a class.) However, even if you do not know how to control your dog or have trouble working with it outdoors, I would still suggest that you go ahead and take the dog out a few times before class.

You do not have to go far. You don't even have to leave your porch, if you don't want. Or you can just walk up and down the same boring old patch of sidewalk in front of your house. If it's other dogs that cause the problem, then go out during quieter times of the day. It's just important that at some point, you actually leash up and go through the front door.

Here's why: To a dog who never goes out, just the fact of the Great Outdoors will cause its excitement level to go up by 100%. When you then show up at class, the excitement level will go up by another 100%.

You do not want to be in class with a dog who is at a 200% excitement level!!! Even if you can only lower the dogs excitement level by a couple of notches, that's still better than nothing.

2) If you and your dog have been nothing but goofing off at dog parks and the river all summer, or if you literally have not practiced obedience at all since your last class ended, go ahead and do a couple of obedience practices prior to class. Just to get back into the swing of things. Nobody likes to feel "rusty" when they show up for class. Review your old class hand-outs if you still have them; that will help you jump right back in!

3) If you are the sort of person who is All Busy All The Time, go through your calendar now and mark off specific chunks of time for practice. The days just fly by!

4) It is always interesting to make a video of you and your dogs current level of training. Just grab your camera and a friend, and run through a quick Leash-walk/sit/stay/down/recall routine. At the end of class, do it again! This is usually a very reinforcing exercise. Some day I am going to make a montage of everybody's "before/after" videos and put them on my website!

5) Some people like to hand-feed their dogs a couple of meals before training class starts. This gets dogs used to the concept of taking treats from the hand; you can also ask for specific behaviors (sit, come, etc) before your dog gets the food, so that it gets back into "working" mode. If your dog has a habit of taking treats too roughly, this is an excellent time to do some remedial work around that (close the food tightly in your fist, release only when the dog is gentle about taking it, if the dog does make tooth contact then "OUCH!!!" and snatch the hand back.

6) If there are specific things that you know your dog is likely to have trouble with in class, then get a head-start on it now! For example, if your dog tends to pull towards other dogs or distractions, take a few "training walks" so that you can do lots of reinforcing and build calm walking up as much as possible. Then you can use classtime to improve even more!

I wish all students, both my students and other trainer's students, the very very very best of luck in class!

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