It turns out I’m not dead! I was just taking a good, loooong break from goal-making, mostly because we welcomed our new baby in May and it turns out that caring for toddlers and pregnant wives and then toddlers and recovering wives and then toddlers and infants makes for a tough time to carve out time to set new goals. In fact, with a 3 month old, I’m really only making new goals now because my current one should take less than a half hour a day. This time, I’m moving into dog training.
See, a few years ago, I met with a local dog trainer in order to find out her secrets of how she got what I consider one of the cooler jobs in the world, and while her experience won’t match my own, ever, I became a lot more determined to be the kind of person who can make my own schedule doing what I love…at least part time? So, I’ve been working on a five-year plan on how to get to that point, and really, the best thing you can do when trying to get experience is to actually get experience, you know? And…I have a dog…why not start there? She’s incredibly well-behaved, but not well-trained, per se. We got a good start on her when she was a puppy, and then left her to her devices because she’s a generally obedient, loyal, easy-going family member. We mostly got lucky. But she’s the kind of dog that knows ‘sit’ when it’s convenient to her, and she rushes people who ring the doorbell, and has been known to eat her way through anything left on the counter. If I can’t make 20 minutes a day to work on this priority a goal now, when I’m poor and busy, how can I see a whole five-year goal through? My kids and home life will keep me busy and poor for the next…entire foreseeable future, yet people have to get things done in that time. This is my small start.
So, 100 days of dog training will take me to December 1st. I was hoping to end at Thanksgiving, the way I did with my running, but oh well. Here we are. I did work on training a friends’ dog over the weekend, so it’s not like I’ve been wasting the last week completely. I’m working using Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels program. It has four levels, with each command broken down into different levels within, as building blocks. My goal, after 100 days, is to be passed Level 2, and into Level 3. I have no idea if this is very possible or not, time will tell, but Level 4 feels very advanced from where I am. I may add other behaviors in within, but hope to stick to the book pretty strictly.
Within this time period, I hope to have mini ‘tests’ built in to see if progress is being made. One is a trip planned to Vermont, where we’ll be going on at least one hike, plus generally being in a novel area. One is an option to go to a local historical education center, which offers ‘Dog Days’, September through December, which will be the perfect time to test our training with strange smells, places and other dogs. And, I’m hoping to find other ways to test in the middle….trips to PetSmart or HomeDepot or other places where she can practice.
Ultimately, I’ve researched different dog sports/competitions, and I think it would be possible to train for a Rally competition. I’ve never competed with dogs before, but what better way to see if my training is paying off? I do truly believe that it would take longer than 100 days to reach this place, or if it doesn’t, than I wouldn’t be able to enter a competition before January or February anyway, due to my work schedule, but I love the idea of a big test to see where we’ve come in the short term, and in the long term, I like the idea of having a ‘titled’ dog to show off if I’m ever going to train other people’s.
I suppose the mid-way point between a Rally competition and a where I am now could be the Canine Good Citizen test. Although I’m generally loathe to give money to the AKC, I believe that it is possible to undertake this test after 100 days of training. Plus, they only take a few minutes, and are offered all over the place. Fine, let’s add that to the goal list.
Alright, tomorrow I will ‘officially’ start my training in Level 1, and try to report here as frequently as I can regarding how we’re progressing. With this, I hope to have my first dog, really, REALLY trained under my tutelage, with the proof to show it. Until then.