I wish I could find a Workshop for people who are Homeschooling their dogs - something to help you discover your goals, devise a comprehensive plan to meet them, give you strategies for staying the course, tricks to make things easier, tips for avoiding pitfalls, all wrapped up in a neat little bundle and topped off with a gold-star certificate to mark your successful completion so you can stuff it in your dog's Accomplishments binder.
(My preference, of course, being a serious introvert, would be for an on-line Workshop - something that you can tailor to your own needs, do at your own pace, and yet would still have the feel of a real Workshop.)
Alas, I know of no such beastie - but if anyone out there does, please let me know!
Instead, I fumble along here, spitting out list after list, posting about things that go well (yeah) or badly (sigh) all the while feeling overwhelmed, undereducated, ill-equipped, and rather alone in the world.
It's not that there aren't a lot of resources out there. Sue Ailsby's Training Levels is truly outstanding (truly), there are classes at the local (regional, world) level for those so inclined, quite a few Internet groups and lists covering a wide variety of topics, and far too many blogs and websites to count.
So what's the problem?
There just doesn't seem to be anything comprehensive, tailored specifically to dogs and further tailorable to my dogs.
The way I see it, when it comes to dog ownership, most people fall into one of three camps: You have the "three squares and a walk" camp (aka the owners of the average Family Dog) - who treat their dog like a well-loved goldfish that you can hug. You have the "performance" camp - who have one or more organized activities in mind (agility, obedience, rally...) and need a dog in order to participate in them. And finally, the Working Dogs - who have real life jobs to do (police work, drug detection, assistance...) and probably have had more specialized education than most kids I know.
(Yes, I realize Performance dogs and Working dogs are also Family dogs, but that's kind of like saying a Rocket Scientist is also a person - just because it's true doesn't mean it's relevant to the topic at hand.)
So what's the problem?
What if you want more than a goldfish, need less than an employee, and don't enjoy being on display? Where's the program for General Canine Education - something akin to what we provide for children?
I send my son off to school everyday, content in the knowledge that he will learn what needs learning - the state provides for that. If I had instead chosen to Homeschool him (an option where I live) we would be marching along using one of the several quality comprehensive programs out there, neatly laid out to help the Homeschooling parent teach their kid a wide variety of subjects, visit a wide variety of places, and engage in a wide variety of activities.
But when it comes to my dogs, I'm left entirely on my own. Sue's program, as wonderful as it is (have I mentioned that it is Truly Wonderful?) is not a comprehensive education program for The Complete Dog. It's not supposed to be. It seems mainly like the three R's portion, with some PE thrown in to keep things interesting. These sorts of things should be the backbone of every dog's education, but I don't view them as all a dog needs to know or do.
A complete program could start with Sue's program (or something like it) and then add in suggestions for places to go, things to do, plus ways to enrich your dog life - enriching your own life, in the process.
There are books that touch on some of these things, usually as a means to and end - puppy socialization lists are a good place to start, as are lists developed for those raising service dogs.
But what then? There doesn't seem to be much at all for Continuing Education that doesn't involve being on display.
(I'm rambling again, aren't I?)
Ok... how about this: In summary, I want a program that helps my dogs live as fulfilling a life as possible, in ways that I enjoy, with the understanding they will never be "more" than Family Pets.
Therefore, I will make my goal this week to revisit the concept of a comprehensive Canine Homeschooling Program. I know I touched on that early this year, but I seem to have gotten sidetracked over time with Levels and CGC and Rally. Now there is nothing wrong with all those things, and want to continue to pursue them, but I also don't want to lose track of the forest for all those trees.