I am slowly getting sucked in to instructing obedience. I swore I didn't want to (I have a hard enough time teaching Emilu obedience , let alone someone else). First I said I'd "help out" at a "basic manners" class for my training club, and then I agreed to "judge" the 4-H Rally dog program and the local fair this year. The lady who has the 4-H "dog club" is the woman who runs the boarding kennel that I take the dogs to. She asked if I would judge the competition this year, and I also agreed to help out at some of the meetings because she doesn't really know much about Rally. I start tomorrow night. Anybody have any general (or specific) suggestions for teaching kids to show dogs?
What are the ages?
In my experience, kids are better handlers than adults. They are eager to learn (as well as used to learning since they do this all day in school), have no previous experience so aren't apt to fight your methods, are excited about doing somethign with their dog so they do their homework, etc. The biggest challenge is keeping the class moving so they don't get bored and talking at a level they can understand...they are kids, not adults, so they can't take 15 directions at once, break it down into smaller pieces. Don't stand around talking for hours boring them ad naseum about the wherefore/how to's. Show them once then let them try.
My daughter was the only child in her class. The instructor talked well above her head and talked non-stop about nothing in particular. Meghan would get bored, daydream, disconnect with Essy, then not pay attention to what was being said. It was hard for her to pay attention to the instructor AND the dog at the same time. I started making her practice sits/downs/finishes, etc when the instructor would go into one of her dissertations so she was doing SOMETHING productive.
I think knowing the age of the kids is important. And maybe what each kid and dog already know - so maybe at the 1st class see if all kids and dogs can sit, down, not really heel so much but move with their dog next to them. I think kids would like to feel like they accomplish something - so maybe each week pick out a harder exercise they can practice and show off the 1st thing the next week like some of the fronts or the back up 3 steps or the 1-2-3 steps forward. The 270 and 360 degree turns can be kind of fun.
Maybe have two lines of kids and dogs and practice heeling and then stopping, turning left and right and 180 degrees - its not so much for precision as to give a flavor of what the exercises are in Rally. And ask the kids what they expect - if they're preteen to teen I think they could tell you. I've never taught kids so my ideas might not work but I always liked it when an instructor wanted to know what I wanted to learn, and I think kids probably feel the same way.
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Keep everything as interactive as you can - let them work independently and as a team. Make things as fun as you can. Try to find something they each do well and share it.
We did a recall exercise by turning it into a race. I think that could be really fun for kids. Split the group and have them do recalls. The first team to finish wins.
Hope this helps - having a 10 yr old I know how quickly you can lose them if they don't stay involved.
Sharon, loved by Moose & Sky
Thanks for the suggestions. We had the first "class" tonight. They had never even heard of Rally, but some of them have been showing in 4-H for several years. I talked a little bit, set up a simple course and took them through it - first without dogs, then with their dogs, just so they could get an idea of what it is like. We're going to break up into about 3 groups next week and work on just a few signs in each group -maybe have a game or 2 also. I just don't have tons of time to put into it right now, but I'll manage something.