Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Canine Graduates Seek Meaning Too!

by Lorraine May, M.A.

Many of us take our best pals to a variety of classes such as obedience, good manners or how to walk on a leash. Our dogs participate in activities including agility, rally and fly ball. They become service dogs, working dogs and audiences for young readers.

We teach our dogs to sit, weave and retrieve. We reward them for listening attentively and following directions. We enjoy their company and sometimes even depend upon them for our health or our very lives.

I recently enrolled in a Canine Freestyle Dog Dancing class with my 12 pound, 5 year old Rat Terrier. My intention is to spend time with him and have fun. I also like that his intense energy and quick mind are being channeled into an activity at which he seems to be naturally talented. My observation is that he is in complete harmony. Shadow is learning to circle, jump, wiggle and bow on cue. I am considering entering a competition if it suits us as a team.

 We humans tend to focus on our own goals. We seek involvement in these endeavors for a variety of reasons including as a way to spend quality time with our dogs, to mentally stimulate them or to provide adequate exercise. At times the payoff also includes earning a medal, title or certificate. Having a sense of our dog’s goals allows us to avoid the stress that can accompany our activities, particularly those which are evaluated.

Sometimes we lose sight of what has meaning for our dogs at ‘graduation’. Mine have made me aware of the following:

·         To learn how to learn so I can please my human.

·         To communicate my needs.

·         To learn to live well in the human world.

·         To be allowed to follow my natural instincts as much as possible.

·         To experience love, safety, joy and appreciation.






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