My Dog Has C.L.A.S.S.
by Heddie Leger
The C.L.A.S.S. curriculum involves a three-level evaluation for students to demonstrate the real-life skills with their dogs. A knowledge assessment of the students/owner understanding of basic dog handling and care is included. Dogs and their owners can earn a Beginner Level (BA-Bachelor’s Degree); Intermediate level (MA-Masters Level); and an advanced (PhD-Doctoral Level Degree). Skills are increased in increments of duration, distance and distraction while learning practical life skills such as wait at the door until invited in, drop item, switch item, wait for food, and other essential life skills. These are not just basic obedience skills, these are social life skills.
Training Success for Your Dog
This program sets your dog up for success by giving feedback and rewards for behavior you like, and by arranging the learning environment so that the behavior you want is produced more easily and consistently. Positive, reward-based training does not mean that your training is indulgent or without restraint. Clear boundaries and rules still need to be set for our canine companions. For one, dogs feel more secure with clear boundaries, because they know what is expected of them. Two, boundaries are necessary to maintain harmony in the human household. With positive, reward-based training methods, those rules and boundaries can be established without creating a confrontational atmosphere.
The dog/student relationship is also strengthened through shared activity. With positive, rewards-based training we spend quality time with the dog, resulting in the dog learning so that he has the social skills to spend more time with people. Dogs are living, emotional beings thriving on social interaction; they require human attention to be well-adjusted, not to mention to learn appropriate social behavior. A dog left out alone in the yard is not only deprived of required human attention and a sense of belonging but the skills needed to live with humans, as dogs will do whatever works for them if left to their own devices.
Educate about Dog Behavior
A large part of C.L.A.S.S. is to educate about dog behavior. Dogs are not furry little people. Problems can arise when humans apply human characteristics to explain dog behavior. Dog behavior is often misunderstood, and countless myths have been perpetuated regarding their behavior. The more we understand our dogs, the better relationships we can have with them. For instance, most dogs aren’t behaving “badly” in a dog sense; they are just using normal dog behaviors to get their needs met or to resolve conflict. They use those behaviors because it’s what they know, and from a dog’s point of view, they usually work. Dog behavior is driven by the dog’s needs, not human emotion or morals. Canine Life and Social Skills is not just about training our dogs; it is about training people, too! Through the C.L.A.S.S. program, students find resources for learning about dog behavior, including locating training professionals dedicated to advocating dog-friendly techniques.
Encourage Ongoing Training
Dogs are continually learning. Why not use training to be proactive in what your dog learns? With its emphasis on maintaining training skills, as well as advancing to higher levels of training, the C.L.A.S.S. program supports continual training.
One of the goals of the C.L.A.S.S. program has been the development an assessment that is particularly beneficial to the needs of shelter dogs. Any shelter or rescue group that is a registered 501(c)(3) may register their shelter for free and all dogs in your care may be tested in the program with fees waived. Shelters across the state beta-tested and approved the process as helpful in increasing their dog’s adoptability due to having some basic life skills. Many have experienced a decrease in euthanasia rates and increase of adoption rates.
Does Your Dog Have C.L.A.S.S.??
We invite you to go to www.mydoghasclass.com and find a training facility and evaluator near you.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. The APDT is dedicated to building better trainers through education, promoting dog-friendly methods and encouraging their use.
Heddie is a Certified Humane Educator. She is the recipient of the 2011 Excellence Award from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She is a Community Training Partner for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the local Kansas City Area Representative for the Animals and Society Institute. Her compassion for animals extends to all species. You can reach her at the PawZone In-Home PetSitting (www.thepawzone.com) and The DogSpot Training Center.