Today SAGA tried something new with the puppy walkers.
We used to meet at various shopping malls and do a “group walk” which was great for the pups, but it made it very hard to focus on obedience issues and assist the puppy walkers with issues like dog or people distraction.
So today, we had a session at SAGA with our Puppy Development Supervisors instead, and we had 18 pups of all ages in the group!
When I arrived with Riddick and Volt, Lerato helped me get Volt settled as he gets so very excited when we go to SAGA! He knows the people and he knows a lot of the dogs, and many of the puppies remember their puppy classes and associate the SAGA training field with fun and play.
Once they thought everyone was there we lined up along one side of the field in a long line and settled the dogs in a “sit” whilst SAGA’s Gail briefed us on what they had planned for the session.
Then we walked across the field and back again several times, still in a line, taking a few steps and doing a “sit”, a “down”, a “return to heel” or an “about turn”. The dogs were still very excitable with so many pups around but they were definitely settling down as we progressed.
One challenge was someone from SAGA walking down the line of dogs offering each one a cookie treat which we had to instruct them to ignore. This is understandably difficult, but it is an important part of the dog’s training because they are not allowed to be distracted by anything at all when they’re working!
Then we seperated into two lines on either side of the field with the pups facing each other. We did several exercises like walking towards and past each other, instructing the dogs all the time to ignore the other dogs in passing.
In one part of the session they had a SAGA staff member- specifically a black, male staff member- walk the two lines of dogs and greet each one to see how they reacted to him. Sometimes the pups do not get enough exposure to people of all races and ages as they grow and it is important that anyone they meet is treated the same way- with as little reaction as possible.
Then they threw a ball back and forth down the middle of the row of dogs and we had to instruct them to ignore the ball! Being puppies this was tricky because they all want to play!
After the session, we had a chance to have coffee and a cookie and chat to the other puppy walkers and to our PDS. Even this tea drinking is part of their training because there will be times when our pups’ blind partners are at church or work or some such and the dogs have to learn to be calm and quite even when closely surrounded by people and dogs.
When we got home, Volt was absolutely exhausted!
I thought the training session was fantastic! I hope SAGA will make it a regular thing because I will definitely be attending.