Having Fun in Obedience

By Steve Bergerson (June 2012)

What got you started in obedience?
My life in obedience began when my first dog, Mickey, a Golden Retriever, came into my life back in the mid 80's. Ten weeks of Beginner Obedience was part of the purchase, so we trained at Solid Gold Obedience Academy, which was run by the owners of her sire. It was in this class that I met my first Portie. I went on to put a CD on Mickey, and we did it in three shows. She became a wonderful and faithful companion for many years, and it was such a joy to have a dog under control. When she crossed the bridge, I wanted another dog and that is when Tarpon became my partner. After having an obedience-trained dog, I didn't think twice about obedience training my Twerp. We went through The Good Puppy Social Club, Beginner Obedience and even trained for Open. Tarpon continued the tradition and received her CD in three shows, but never competed in Open. So when Magen entered my life, I totally expected there would eventually be a CD after her name.

What do you find most rewarding about training your dog for obedience?
The reward, I believe, is the bond between us, between my dog and me. The symbiosis, her (I've only owned bitches) performing actions and me giving her treats, or the other way around, me giving her treats when she performs actions, builds the bond. Ultimately, the treats go away, but the bond stays, and the bond is reflected in our mutual desire to give what the other needs.

What do you find most challenging about training your dog for obedience?
I think my greatest challenge is finding the best training method for my dog. Mickey was always trained with a "choke" collar, to which she responded perfectly, while Magen is trained with a flat collar, which is almost too much, as she is so soft. So my theory of dog training has evolved, but I think all of the methods have some validity, and my challenge is to create a training regimen that is the best for the dog I am training.
I really didn't want to do the "ear pinch" on Magen, but the actual pinch lasted for a second or less, and it did the trick. She took the dumb-bell and has every time since. Maybe her softness made the ear pinch work all the better.

Do you have any amusing moments that happened in training or in obedience?
Thinking about this, I realize that the amusing moments that come to mind have happened in the ring. Mickey lost points for "bounce" because she healed in a most "bouncy" way, bouncing almost up to my shoulder. The judge said she liked the attitude, but had to take points off. The first time in the ring with Magen she followed me across the ring when I left her on the recall. I guess she loves me and didn't want to be that far away in a strange place. And another time, she scratched her ear with about 20 seconds left on the long down. When she was done scratching, she sat up. The judge just looked at me and sighed. And there are other events in the ring about which I could tell you, but you will have to use your imagination.
I guess the bottom line is: the bond between us is that no matter what Magen does in the ring, I find it amusing. Sometimes we have fun and qualify, and other times we just have fun.