I've been reading for awhile now, but just registered today.
I've taught beginner obedience at my local obedience club once before (last summer) and am going to teach it again in a few weeks. I have lots of experience (I've been training dogs for 9-10 years now - I'm 20) - I've trained my own dogs plus a bunch of private clients during that time. I train for and compete with my guys in AKC obedience/rally/agility and I also trained for a few years in Schutzhund.
My club had originally tailored these beginner classes for pre-novice work; but I know most of the people that come will want just a well behaved house dog, not a competition dog. Of course on the first day I will find out what my students want out of the class and then tailor my lesson plans to that; but I am wondering for those of you that have taken a beginners class recently (or not so recently) if there was any activities or things you concentrated on that were very helpful? Things that weren't helpful at all? Keep in mind that I will likely have 8-12 students and can't make everyone happy at the same time because the students will likely be at different levels in the beginner stages (for example - if you taught your puppy sit before you went to obedience class and then the trainer taught you how to sit your dog; I can't take it out b/c some people's dogs do not sit and some of the owners don't have the knowledge of how to teach it)
If you have any ideas I would appreciate you sharing them. I'm just trying to make the class better and make it fun! I plan to incorporate some training games that I have thought up, but really this is new territory (and I am bold introducing it even though I got the OK from the training directors) The club really focuses on competition and being serious, but for beginner classes (level 1) the average person with their dog can't see the good in the novice exercises -and frankly I can't either. I love training dogs and I have a lot of fun doing it - it shouldn't be a chore - and thats what I want to get across.
If this is an obedience club offering the classes I would focus on competition level exercises. Those that choose not to go on to competition will not be any worse but if you tailor the class to pet training, those going on to competition will be at a disadvantage. I will point out something I've seen happen over and over. The first night everyone says "I just want a dog that listens/behaves" but by the end of the class you may have found several converts to the competition side so it's always better to err on the side of competition.
There are lots of games to play that teach exercises while keeping it exciting for everyone. I think you are on the right track by trying to incorporate some of them. One game that most people seem to enjoy and gets everyone involved is tic-tac-toe with the dogs.
Set up a large tic-tac-toe game on the ground using pvc poles as the lines (about 3' sqs). Divide the class in half. Group 1 is "sit". Group 2 is "down". Group 1 handler places his/her dog in a sit/stay on the board and the handler rejoins the group, group 2 handler places his/her dog in a down/stay on the board and the handler rejoins the group, then group 1 goes, and so on. The key is the dogs need to stay in position while all this commotion is going on around them. If they move (sit to down, down to sit, stand up or move from their square) they are removed from the board (but they can still play again when it is their turn). This can alter the outcome of the game very quickly. Then switch the groups so group 1 is down and group 2 is sit and play again.
Thanks for the tic-tac-toe idea - I've never heard of that one! Our level II & III are our beginner obedience classes more focused on obedience competition. With Level II focusing on pre-novice and level III focusing on Obedience competition prep work. I know a lot of people that just skip Level I and go to Level II even with a new dog because they know what they are doing. I will be happy to provide competition geared training and/or homework to those that want it and show an interest - but as the club is doing it as a public service, we are trying to focus this class on pet training - and things that people need in the house. We are trying to develop 2 tracks - 1 for pet training and 1 geared for competition - we aren't there yet; but will be soon (it all depends on the availability of qualified instructors) I'm all for teaching stuff for competition - usually with the competition geared level I classes - people don't come back for a level II because we have bored them. For example the non-competition people I have had in my classes don't see the stand and finish as necessary or useful - I explain dozens of reasons why it may be useful - but they don't think so and then think its too tailored to competition - something they don't want to do. I want to introduce all basic stuff, and the building blocks (like in rally) to competition level, but also make it useful for everyday life.
I don't know if I'm explaining myself correctly - but hope I am.
Tic Tac Toe sounds fun. We did doggie push ups which was kind of fun. Just put the dog in a sit and then down and keep alternating you can mix in a few stands for fun too. We also did figure 8's with other students and their dogs as the poles (I think that was level 2 though)
Commands that I think were most useful during a beginner class are:
Sit, Down, Stay, Leave it, Watch me (or some other attention command), We also did Wait (like to wait at a curb or door until they are released)
I agree w/Lydia. It's about control and consistency in a beginner class. And whether that control leads to eventual ring competitions or general good manners around the house, the benefit is clear.
bacatherine: thanks for your input. If you enjoyed "puppy push-ups" that's awesome. Its always hard to get feedback on what the people liked and what they didn't. Its also interesting that you liked your figure 8's - which we always incorporate into a level 1 - I think its a great exercise for loose lead walking as well as control for the 2 pole teams.
dweck: The biggest part of level I is teaching the owners that they need to be in control and to be consistent; I just don't want to make it too focused on competition prep.
As per the training director: The goals of this course are to learn basic everyday commands such as come, sit, down, and walk on a loose leash. I also plan on incorporating attention, stay, long downs, as well as motivational play. I am also focusing on the dog answering the command no matter where they are (for instance the left side, right side, behind, in front) because we can't always be in heel position in the house or other situations.
By Beginner Obedience, I interpret it to mean Socialization, Sit, Down, Down-stay, Wait, Stand, Loose lead walk, and Recall, all on lead.
I have been through three of these classes. I believe the training at this level should be for competition. It will benefit the house pet and tends to get better results. For those that don't want it, they can drop out, or just adjust there training out of class.
You didn't state if this was a Lab only, or all breed class. If the latter, I think you should be prepared to accept only dogs in a similar size/age. The tone of the class definitely get set by age and size. I also think that if you are doing this alone, anything over 5 students/instructor is just too much and you are not giving the students what they need to be successful.
Well, you asked for 2 cents, and I gave a dime. My intent is not to sound knowledgeable or critical. Just reflecting on what I experienced through the three courses I took with different dogs.
PS: I took a Cockapoo (my wife's choice that I got stuck with for 15 years) through a series of these courses. If I were the instructor, I would refuse to accept any Cockapoos into the class. I apologize to any Cockapoo owners reading this, but the poor things don't have a brain large enough to learn anything.
Hershey Kisses, In charge of getting Ed out to the dog park so that he gets some exercise.
I am helping out with my obedience clubs "basic manners" class. We divide classes into "basic manners" and "basic obedience" for beginners. Basic manners is for those people who just want a well-behaved dog and not planning on going into obedience. Basic obedience is for those who think they might want to show, or continue with training. I am one of those people who started by saying that I didn't have any intention of ever showing and didn't worry if my dog "sat straight" or not. It has taken us a long time to correct things that I didn't care about once I decided to show. So I would suggest trying to get people to train as "correctly" as they can. If you teach a sloppy, crooked sit, pretty soon it's a dog who will only sit in front of you, and then a dog who will just sit when they want to. You don't have to be an obedience Nazi about it, but try to get them to see that their dog will actually learn better if they are trained to do the same thing each time. Lots of praise for both dogs and people. Say at least 2 nice things about the person and about the dog each class. Learn the dogs name and tell them each class what a wonderful, pretty, smart dog they are (even if they are a cockapoo).
I agree w/Patm. I had no interest in showing and blew off teaching the 'stand.' When Wesley started getting good at obed -- good enough to try some shows -- teaching stand was 100x more difficult.
I tell beginner students now: CLOSE NO DOORS!! You have no idea how far you and your dog may go! ;D
My old trainer did the CGC test as graduation for her initial novice class. Half were pet owners and half were bound for competition, but it was cool to end with the CGC. If you aren't an evaluator, maybe you can find one to help you on the last day. The things you teach can be a foundation for both a good mannered pet and a beginning to intermediate OB.