Has your dog developed some bad habits over the years? Has he forgotten his manners, or realized that rules are sometimes breakable? Well, I have great news! It is NEVER too late to teach an old dog new tricks or brush up on good behaviors! Dogs, like humans, are always learning. Just because you took an obedience class when your dog was younger does not mean that there is nothing to do to keep his brain active and challenged. There are many advanced or specialty classes and activities to do with dogs of all ages.
Intermediate level classes can help dogs refine and practice their obedience skills through the use of fun games and activities. REAL WORLD classes can help dogs generalize those skills into real life settings in public places. At The Refined Canine, LLC, our REAL WORLD training group meets in a variety of locations, and we practice greeting people, politely shopping in pet supply stores, hiking in the woods, and practicing leash walking and staying in distracting environments. It is an excellent way to make the leap from closed training room to real life! It is also a great way to socialize puppies with many people.
Beyond basic life and social skills, there are a variety of specialty classes available. The AKC Canine Good Citizen is a test which evaluates your dog for the purposes of being a friendly member of society. You can take a CGC Prep course to prepare. A CGC designation may open doors for your dog and you with hotels, and even homeowners associations. The CGC is also the prerequisite for all the generally accepted Therapy Dog certifications.
Probably the most popular dog sport is Agility. There are several local training schools, such as Paws N Effect in Hamden, offering beginner through advanced agility classes, practice runs, and competitions. Rally Obedience is another very popular advanced level competitive event, and you can earn titles, ribbons and trophies, even if your dog is not pure bred. One of the latest dog sports to sweep the nation is K-9 Nose Work. This sport helps you teach your dog to use his keen sense of smell to earn titles, and can even prepare your dog to become a detection dog for drugs, cancer, search and rescue, or just for fun! The newest sport taking hold here in the USA is Treibball. This is especially popular among the herding breeds, as they get to use that instinct to “herd” a series of balls into a goal. If you want a way to get active with your dog, you might consider Canine Freestyle or DOGA (dog yoga).
If you don’t really want to get involved in a dog sport, and you really aren’t interested in earning any titles, but simply want to participate in an activity with your dog for fun, then you can take a REAL WORLD class, a tricks class or workshop, a “brush up” class, or a just-for-fun workshop to try out some of the above-listed activities. Older dogs seem to really come alive and act like puppies again when they’re given an opportunity to use their brain and show off what they know.
Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC teaches Puppy Social Skills, Basic Canine Life Skills and Intermediate Refined Canine classes through the Stratford Recreation Department, as well as REAL WORLD classes, private in-home training, and behavior counseling through her business The Refined Canine, LLC. E-mail her at TopDog@refinedcanine.com for more information.