So here I am at my first APDT Conference, along with some 800 other dog trainers, including several of my colleagues from AnimalSense. APDT is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. When we told our classes last week that there would be no class this week, we said we would be at the conference and we would be bringing lots of good info, tips and techniques back with us.
The keynote speaker retraced her journey of finding, getting, training and working with a search and rescue dog. It was interesting to hear about some of the work that search and rescue dogs have done… from searches at Ground Zero following 9/11 to the Challenger tragedy and hurricane Katrina.
But the most important thing I was reminded of is what I believe is the whole reason we train our dogs: to build a relationship that is good for both our dogs and for us. In talking about her Golden Retriever search and rescue dog, this speaker repeatedly used words such as “team”and “partner” to describe her relationship with her dog. I think we can all see the need for that kind of relationship with a “working dog.”
Back when I was attending AnimalSense classes as a dog owner (with no thought, by the way, of ever becoming a trainer, much less spending a week at a training conference), one of the first things we learned was Touch. While it was sort of fun to do, I remember also thinking it seemed kind of silly. I mean, would showing my friends how my dog could touch his nose to my hand, impress them? I doubt it. But today, some 8+ years later my dog still knows that “trick.” More importantly, I am convinced that that “silly” trick and the other training we did building on it is the key reason for the satisfying relationship I have with my dog today.
So while we may all have different motivations for signing up for a class – ranging from building search skills to eliminating aggression (my motivation) – I think it’s important to remember that one of the biggest benefits of training your dog is the mutually rewarding relationship you can build.