Monday, December 21, 2009

Canine Curriculum – Primary School

There is a pair of Canis familiaris curled up on my sofa. Standing 24” at the shoulder and weighing in a 70-80lb apiece, they are formidable carnivores with sharp and pointy teeth, muscular bodies, and the ability to run circles around me without even trying.

And yet I do not fear them.

Centuries of selective breeding have transformed their kind into the loving dogs lying across my lap at this very moment (yes, I said dogs (plural), no, it’s not easy to type with 150lb of dogs in my lap, and no my lap is not that big.)

Those selective breeders have produced an animal primed to learn, eager to please, and desiring attention and affection to the utmost degree - at least it did in the case of my Golden Retrievers.

What I do with those attributes is entirely up to me.

Human offspring come with those very same attributes, and over those same centuries society has developed both methods of teaching and a body of knowledge that needs to be taught. Obviously, this knowledge morphs and grows with each succeeding generation, but the fact that children should respect their elders, get along with their peers, can be taken places without being an embarrassment, and ultimately learn the necessary skills to become useful members of society is as true today as it was when Lord Tweedmouth began breeding golden-furred dogs with sound temperaments and a desire to retrieve.

When you go into a bookstore today, you find lots of books on raising children, educating children and nurturing children. When you go to the dog section you find row after row of books on dog TRAINING. When was the last time you saw even one row of books on “Child Training”? Ok… I’ll give you Potty Training, but that’s it (potty training and housetraining being not so very different, when you think about it.)

Even worse than the titles of the books, is the sameness of their content: sit, down, come… useful skills to be sure, but just a fraction of what it takes to turn a dog into a Family Member. And isn’t that what most people want - a Family Member? That is certainly what I want – a dog to share my life and my home, who respects me as their elder, gets along with my friends, can be taking places without embarrassing me, and has the necessary skills to be a useful member of the family.

So, now you know the perspective from which I created my Canine Curriculum for Zachary. Following the style of education for children, I titled the first skills Primary School, then added Middle School, and finally Secondary School. I felt that Primary School contained the bare bones minimum needed for a dog I could live with. Middle School and Secondary School expanded on earlier concepts. The end result would be (hopefully) a dog who would make a wonderful Family Member.

As an example, on the right is what I included in Primary School. You can click on the image for something big enough to read.

You will note that I made no mention of HOW to teach those things. That is because I wasn’t trying to create a dog TRAINING guide, but rather compile the skills and experiences that I felt my dog needed in order to reach maturity.

For the curious, I chose Clicker Training (hey, I didn’t name it) as my primary method of teaching. Zachary is a “soft” tempered dog and he seems to be flourishing with that form of education.

I have no doubt that I will be creating additional curricula (think College or Trade School) but those will have to wait until Zachary’s true potential becomes apparent. Just as I cannot foresee the path my son will take in life, Zachary’s future “occupation” remains a mystery. But no matter what he ends up doing, be it Rally, Obedience, Agility or something I have yet to consider, I know he will always be a loving and well-loved member of my family.

1 comment:

Wendy Krehbiel said...

Loving your posts! You're inspiring me to want to revisit my curriculum, handouts and approach to students! Keep it coming....