Last week, I was asked about my favorite thing to teach. Since I am still fairly new at training, I didn’t have an immediate answer. But after thinking for a few minutes, I said “Stay.” I didn’t say that so much because I like teaching it; I said it because I like seeing it.
To see a dog sit or lay still, with its eyes following its owner, maybe its head turning and stretching, but never jumping up and moving, is to see an impressive training feat. Think about it. Unless a dog is sleeping, will it normally stay still if you are up moving around the room? What if your doorbell rings? What if there is a noise outside? Another dog barking? Would it be natural for a dog to just lay there and ignore those kinds of distractions? Dogs just are not wired to sit and ignore the world around them, especially when that world is filled with activity or noises or interesting smells.
I remember the first time I saw “Stay.” It was at a dog show obedience competition several years ago. The owners put their dogs in a down position and then proceeded to not only walk away from their dogs, but to walk completely out of sight. As someone at the time who could not even get his dog to sit still if I made even one move, I was amazed.
Last week in just the second week of my Middle Management class I was equally amazed. All four dogs in the class – a Portuguese waterdog, bulldog mix, labradoodle and golden retriever – had stays that nearly rivaled those I remember in the dog show years ago. The owners obviously have worked diligently with their dogs. And you could see the owners’ pride as they stepped away from their dogs, and then back to reward them.
And if your dog isn’t quite at that point yet, it is something to aspire to. It’s just a really great feeling… for me watching as a trainer… and for you (and your dog) doing it!
P.S. The dog show I mentioned going to several years ago was the International Kennel Club of Chicago show. It is coming up again in a few weeks, February 24-26. It’s a great place to see a lot of dogs, talk with owners and breeders… and see other industry folks like your friends at AnimalSense!