I've been spending a lot of time at the local county fair this week, taking pictures for the paper. Last night I went to the 4-H dog show. It was your basic choke-jerk-yank affair with all the snaps and snarls you get when you mix dogs and kids and 90 degree temps. Nobody got bit, nobody's dog ran off, I served as a Figure 8 post and didn't get peed on and only one exhibitor broke down in tears so I guess the show was a success. They were still using the graduate novice routine from 1982 but nobody asked my opinion so I kept my mouth shut.
I taught the local 4-H dog project classes for 10 years in this county and for 3 years before that in a neighboring county. I gave it up mostly out of frustration. My training methods were not going to produce a ring-ready dog for the county fair in 10 weeks, which is the usual amount of time alloted to the training sessions that started in the springtime and continued weekly until fair. It gives me some small bit of satisfaction to realize that their current trainer, who still uses the jerk and yank approach with all dogs on chokers regardless of age or size, isn't getting any better results either.
Another reason I called it quits on teaching the 4-H classes was the competition from every other thing under the sun. The weekly evening training classes were up against vacations, church camp, 4-H camp, sports camp, scout camp, trips to grandma's house, the beach, the mall and endless softball and baseball games and tournaments. You guessed it, the dogs always came in behind everything else. Sometimes the kids didn't even bother coming to the classes at all and just showed up the day of the show with dogs who had never been off the farm, let alone around a dozen other dogs, all pumped on adrenaline and stress.
Watching 4-H dogs shows is always bittersweet for me, since I got started training through the dog project about a hundred years ago and it holds a very special place in my heart. But it was different back then. Seriously different. Most of the kids in my local county project also showed in AKC trials, doing obedience, junior showmanship and competing in the breed ring. Our dogs were a high priority. So it's hard to watch kids yanking their dogs around the county fair ring, knowing that when they go home, the dog will get very little attention until next spring, if then. But at least they're spending some time with them now and hopefully they'll learn something about communicating with another species.
County fair aside, my own dogs have had a rather lazy week. We've been averaging temps around 90 and one day had a heat index of 105 degrees and another is predicted for today, which does not make for great training. Phoenix and I have been doing the 6 a.m. training thing, getting in a quick session before the heat catches up with me. He is fine with the heat. Me? Not so much.
One of my projects for our "vacation" time between shows this summer is teaching a flip finish. This starts with a solid hand touch. I thought Nix had that but I've not been clear enough on my criteria and instead of hand touching my palm, he touches anywhere from fingertips to my forearm. Sometimes he doesn't touch at all, just does one of those "How lovely to see you, dahling" air kisses. So I've got to clean that up first before I can start to shape it into the finish.
A handful of his breakfast crunchies and a clicker has been a great help. Now he's drilling my palm with much more accuracy, although what I call a "nose touch" seems to translate to Malinois-ese as "tooth touch." It's okay. Nobody's bleeding.