Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Extracurricular Activities

OK, I’ll admit it. I had a bit of fun with this one. Fine – a lot of fun.

But isn’t that what life is all about?

I’ve personally found dogs to be experts in having fun, even when given very little to work with. My guys can find fun in an empty soda box, a crinkly leaf, or a pile of Christmas wrapping paper (alas, I can’t say the same for myself and the cleanup afterwards.)

I think the Extracurricular Activities (or Electives) found in Middle School are also about having fun, while at the same time experimenting with life skills. That’s fun plus the opportunity to try on a variety of hats, so as to separate out the ones that fit from the ones that don’t. What a deal!

The same opportunity should exist for my dogs. And yet I’m finding their education to be sadly lacking in that sort of planned fun and variety. Yes, I dutifully follow Sue Ailsby’s program (and highly recommend it!) and I work through the rest of my Canine Curriculum (which I have been slowly uploading here) but there is a certain sameness to it all, and I’m not really sure how much fun it is for my boys.

Well, except for the cookies part. They definitely like the cookies part.

… and Zachary sure seemed to have fun dancing, although that was hardly the point of the exercise.

 Therefore, I think it’s way past time to build some fun into my Curriculum. Now I’m not promising that my boys and I will actually have fun doing the things I’m thinking about here. In fact, some of these might be total disasters (and I’m sure you’ll hear about those) but at least they will be different from the usual sits and downs and stays in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Enough of the preamble, time to get down to business.

I decided to model my Elective Classes after the Cub Scout handbook. My son was a Cub Scout (now a Life Scout) and we had a great time going through his handbook. Activities were sometimes educational, sometimes silly, usually fun, and could be accomplished without an undo amount of skill, time, expense, or effort. You could just flip open the book, pick something new, and have at it.

And that is the goal for my boys.

I considered simply having my Electives follow AKC titling events and other well known activities – so I would have had an Obedience, Rally, Freestyle, etc. Class - but after giving it some thought, I realized the requisite basics would result in a lot of overlap (ie. some form of heeling is common to all of the above) and that would be tedious and boring.

Boring is definitely not fun.

( Besides, I don’t really know enough to properly teach those things. )

So back to first principles I went, taking every dog activity I could think of that my boys and I could do (Obedience, Hiking, Therapy Dog…) and then listing the core elements as I understood them (uh oh.) Activities that would make no sense to my Golden Retrievers (like Protection or Earth Dog) or would not work for me (a purebred Couch Potato) are poorly represented, if at all.

Such is life.

Shrugging off the obvious flaws in my method (and knowing that as Dean of BZ Dogs’ Canine Curriculum, I could always amend things later) I then tried to group the elements into broader categories with fun titles.

In the end, it was those titles that set me free. They spawned ideas for the (hopefully) fun things that could be done within them, without the constraints of the activities they originated from. That certainly seemed in keeping with my original Cub Scout Handbook analogy.

That’s pretty much as far as I’ve gotten so far. My ultimate goal is to come up with a dozen or so simple activities for each Elective, with some being required and others not. Again, most should be brief, fun, and frivolous and not a serious or studied approach to any one thing, and they all must be something that I want to do!

As an example, Aquatics might include playing in a sprinkler, jumping over a stream of water from a hose, splashing through puddles to retrieve a toy, bobbin for toys/food in a wading pool, as well as actually swimming in a body of water or going in after a toy. When possible, elements from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels and/or my own Curriculum will be folded in, such as requiring a sit before running through the sprinklers after a ball.

Think of it as Applied Learning.

But in the end, this is only Middle School. I’m not shooting for Higher Education or extensive indoctrination. After all, if my boys aren’t willing to splash in puddles for toys then there’s little point in trying to make them retrieve dead things from a half-frozen pond.

As always, clicking on any image will show something larger. Think of this as an overview of my dogs’ personalized Canine Hat Collection (just don’t call it that around Beau. He’s still a bit touchy on the subject of H-A-T-S.)

And here’s a possible example for the requirements for one of those Elective Classes.
Again, this is still very much under development, and suggestions are always appreciated!

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