Day one of puppy camp was great fun, as always. It is interesting to see the demographics of the puppies we get. This weekend of the 24 puppies that are here, only 3 are Border Collies. At another puppy camp this year, 19 of the 24 puppies were Border Collies. We have as many American Eskimo puppies this weekend as we do Border Collies! Plus, what is really cool, is that we have 18 DIFFERENT breeds represented this go around. Everything from a Portugese Pedengo (go ahead – I had to google it too) to a Greyhound to a French Bulldog to a Westie to another Giant Schnauzer (which we are seriously getting a reputation here, for putting out some good ones:)). The neat thing is that we have 20 puppies in this group that are all 5 months of age or younger. Way fun, I mean way, way fun. What works out great for the new students, is that 11 of the 24 in camp are repeating puppy campers (for five of them this is their third time at puppy camp) so we have lots of good examples for all to watch, especially since two of the repeaters took their past puppy camp graduates to the USDAA and/or AKC nationals finals and one of them took another Say Yes graduate on to be a multiple-time, National Champion as well. Lucky for all to have this mix in their camp (and for us that get to teach:)). Day one of Puppy camp is really focusing on relationship games with some dog training lectures to break up the work for the puppies and to get all up-to-date on the fundamentals of the Say Yes training program. Even for repeaters, the program is always evolving as I find ways to alter the message, in order to make the instruction clearer for students. So from one puppy camp to the next there will always be something that is new to everyone.
For those coming into the Say Yes program as a complete newbie, it can be at times, overwhelming. It is difficult for any of us to break habits. Since dog training is just a series of habits, for some, this weekend is completely turning around things they have always done in a certain, comfortable way. It is rarely easy. Think about how you get dressed in the morning, it is habit. Tomorrow try putting your left leg into your pants first, rather than your right. Feels ‘wrong’ doesn’t it? Just because it feels uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it is incorrect. It is just habit. As far as dog training goes, I think about this old saying quiet: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.” I am always tinkering with how I trained my last dog, in order to more effectively communicate with me current one. That is how I came up with ideas like; ItsYerChoice, or Crate Games or the nose target for contact training or the 2×2 for weave pole training etc. I am not afraid to leave what I did yesterday (even if it is a comfortable habit) in order to try to improve tomorrow for my next dog. If you aren’t willing to alter your approach from one dog to the next, you may find dog training frustrating and possibly ineffective from one dog to the next. I don’t mean tomorrow I may suddenly stop teaching the 2×2′s or something. What I am getting at is that, all we do at Say Yes is a series of games. So for example I have almost 50 games that I can use to teach a dog the seesaw. I don’t necessarily need all of them for any one dog and I may be adding more games as I am given different challenges from my future dogs. The point is, I will not keep trying to do what I did with my last dog and insist this current dog is a moron if he doesn’t get it!
The way I think about this is that God sends as a dog to teach us some lessons, if we don’t learn them, He will send them to us again in a future dog that we get. We will keep getting those lessons until we finally get it! Check out The Journey if you haven’t already done so, and even if you have, go watch it again:).
So puppy camp is about evaluating the lessons that are being presented to you, and really getting to know your puppy so you can apply good dog training to bring out the absolute best in that puppy. Thus, the new journey begins!
I am so grateful for students that are not afraid to take that leap. To leave behind that which is comfortable, no matter what success it may have brought them with their past dog, in order to explore the possibility of a better relationship and more brilliance with their current dog.