Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Journey – Learning basic dog training skills By Mary Chye

When a fellow volunteer asked if I would be interested to learn how to train dogs, little did I know I would be gaining more then just a skill. In the process of learning, I gained new understanding on how to handle dogs, experienced the joy in seeing dogs growing up and getting adopted out as well as gaining new friends from Noah’s Ark.

The purpose of getting a group of volunteers to acquire the knowledge was to equip us with the ability to train new dogs to become accustomed to basic commands to sit, lie down and walk with the owner. The training would also help the dog to learn how to focus on the person it is being with. We believe that this would improve the adoptability of any dog. Throughout the training sessions, we have seen 2 puppies and 1 adult dog being adopted. We would like to think that the training helped the dogs be more sociable and comfortable with new people and thus allowed them to be more easily adopted out.

In my journey of learning, I got to know three dogs who were later adopted. This story takes us through some parts of the journey of Bubbles, a black and brown mongrel. Bubbles was rescued near King Albert Park with his brother, a brown mongrel named Squeaky under a tree. Adrian, one of the trainers from APawz told me that Bubbles is an intelligent little fellow and to my amazement, he was so right.


Whoever said that pedigrees are better then mongrels or mutts obviously have never experienced first hand being with one. The intelligence and energy in each of these little bodies are amazing. Perhaps it is the survival instincts having been living on the streets for a while but each one of the dogs I have gotten to know have not stopped amazing me.

Bubbles would observe what the trainer does and what the desired behavior is. Within a few attempts, he could perform the task beautifully. Of course, it helped that Bubbles is very food oriented and that puppies pick skills up faster in general.

Since Bubbles and Squeaky did not stay with us, two of us were tasked to alternate the dogs in each lesson so that the dogs do not get too attached to one of us. This is also to help facilitate the adoption process so that the puppy is accustomed to more then 1 handler and he can blend into a new family faster.

What fascinated me as well was how fast a puppy would grow. With each week of lesson, both of them would grow enough to make us gasp in amazement. I still remember carrying Bubbles around the house during the first few weeks. By the next month, carrying him became harder and harder.

When the news of both Bubbles & Squeaky being adopted came to my ears, I was both happy and sad. Happy that they have a new family but sad that I was not able to see both of them again so imagine the joy I felt when a fellow volunteer said that the new owners have agreed to let both of them come back for training and the new owner for Squeaky was even going to join us!

A few months into the training, Noah’s Ark held a Tea Party at Nyee Phoe Flower Garden. Bubbles, being the star student of the class, was nominated to go on stage to give a mini presentation on the skills he has acquired and since I have been the handler mostly, I was asked to be the one to give him the commands on stage.

On the day itself, I feared that Bubbles would not focus being in a foreign environment, amongst so many other dogs and new faces as well as food! Come on… even I was drawn to the food and the dogs got treats like durian muffins! Getting to the venue early, I brought him onto the stage many times, going through the general steps of sitting, lying down and heel work. I kept telling Bubbles that he would get his normal treats till he completed his performance and then I will get him the durian muffins that he was so attracted to.

Being the puppy that he is, he wanted to run everywhere, play with everyone and eat everything in sight! I kept bringing him for walks till it was time for us to go onto the stage. My fear came true slightly at that moment as we had to walk past the durian muffins table. One whiff of the aroma and Bubbles started towards the table! Luckily, I managed to get him onto the stage and he performed like a star!

As soon as he was off the stage, I went to get his muffin and he gobbled it up without hesitation. What I didn’t expect was that once he started munching on one muffin, he had to have more! As we walked around the tables, Bubbles vacuumed every scrap of food he could find. If I had a camera at that moment, I would have taken a picture of him, durian cream all over his muzzle! He looked so funny and I couldn’t help but laugh at how greedy he was! I guess he must have known he did a good job on stage and is getting his rewards!

Now that the training is well over, I will not have much opportunity to meet Bubbles. I do miss him at times but I am also glad that he has a permanent home now. He helped me to learn how to be a better trainer and taught me that mongrels are intelligent dogs with big hearts full of love and huge vacuum cleaner appetite!

Onwards with our quest to get more dogs adopted!

1 comment:

Elizabeth Flores said...

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