A Trainer’s Tales Chapter 1

Tires crunched through ruts of semi-frozen slush as Andrea swung her car into the parking lot. The limited number of empty spaces signaled a busy Friday morning for the Good Dogs Come to Heaven Training Center. She pulled around to the side of the building, leaving the choice spots closest to the door available for clients. Hoisting her gear bag from the back seat she headed for the entrance.  Inside, a lobby and retail area divided the building with training rings to the left and to the right. Sherry, Heaven’s owner, was working with one client in the larger ring on the right while Linda was warming up her Rally class in the left ring. Andrea could barely discern Linda’s black Newfoundland, Sailor, lying placidly in a corner of the ring.

Andrea strode through the lobby to the back of the building, hung up her jacket in the staff break room and checked her mail slot: a note from Bill about keeping accurate attendance records; another note from Bill, reviewing the procedures for logging credit card sales; and a note from Bill announcing the next trainers’ meeting.

Andrea was still shaking her head over Bill’s prolific correspondence when Lisa entered the break room.

Lisa smirked. “He couldn’t put it all on one piece of paper?”

“Or send us emails” Andrea pointed out.

“He’s always nagging us to watch expenses.”

“And he’s wasting paper” Andrea finished. “What do you have going on today?” she asked as Lisa sat down at the computer and began her log in.

Lisa shrugged. “The usual. Puppy play time in the afternoon and I’m starting a new puppy class on Monday. I came in this morning to update the calendar for next month.”

“Why doesn’t Bill do that? I thought Sherry hired him to take the clerical stuff off us but all he’s really done is to create another layer of aggravation.”

“Hey, I’m just glad he’s handling floor cleaning.” Responsible for all the puppy classes and play groups, Lisa insisted on the ring being cleaned before puppies entered. Prior to Bill’s arrival, she did the cleaning herself even though it added an extra hour to every shift.

“Yes,” Andrea agreed. She raised her voice slightly as she heard his footsteps in the hallway. “The floors are much cleaner since Bill’s been on top of it.”

The big man leaned into the break room doorway and nodded his thanks. Despite all his memo-writing his face-to-face communications were gruff to the point of incoherence. A former client of the training center, when Bill retired from his corporate job Sherry offered him a position as facility manager. Sherry had recently expanded the facility with the second training ring. Although the additional space meant more revenue opportunity, it was immediately evident that doubling the class load also doubled the behind-the-scenes work. While not a trainer himself, Bill was dependable and had been around dog training classes long enough to know how things needed to work.

Now, with Bill joining the staff, Sherry and the other instructors could focus on teaching the classes. However Bill’s skill set did not include record-keeping so Sherry’s next goal was to select and install an online registration system. Several trainers had already voiced their anxiety about working with an automated system.

Linda rushed into the break room to fix a cup of tea before her next class. “Did you see that new dog I have in Novice Rally?” she asked. “It’s a Podengo. Really cute.”

Andrea nodded. “I saw one at some event last year. They are cute. Don’t know much about their personality though.”

Lisa was already typing the breed name into the computer’s search engine. “Three sizes, two coat types” she read from the Breed Standard section of the web site.

“The one I saw was a smooth coat and I think it was the smallest size. The Pequeno” Andrea recalled.

“The one in my class is a Medio” Linda said.

“Oh, they are cute” Lisa was still exploring the web site photo gallery. “What kind of worker is he?” she asked Linda.

“He’s okay. It’s just the first class. Knows all his basic obedience cues, though.” Linda took her tea and headed back to set up the course for her Rally Advanced class.

Andrea noticed that Sherry had finished in the main ring and it was time to get ready for her own Shy Dog class. She set chairs around the ring for each expected student then plugged DAP diffusers in several electric outlets. DAP stood for dog appeasing pheromone. While some professionals expressed doubt about the scientific validity of DAP, Andrea felt there was enough positive anecdotal evidence to make it worth a try. To complete the atmosphere she started some calming music on the CD player.

Most of the dogs in the Shy Dog class had come to their current homes carrying the baggage of past traumas. The class included two Havanese dogs rescued from a puppy mill; they had spent their first four years in a wire cage with no human interaction. Their
foster mom was bringing them to class hoping some confidence would make them more adoptable.

This morning the class members entered very slowly each carrying a rug and coaxing a hesitant dog on the other end of the leash. Andrea waited patiently for everyone to get settled.

“All right, so how are we doing on the Name Game?” Andrea asked the class. The week’s assignment had been to simply say the dog’s name, then toss a treat in the dog’s direction. Everyone reported that their dogs would now turn to look upon hearing their

“Excellent!” Andrea cheered. “Now that they are willing to look at us, we can start building a recall.” Recall was the term for coming when called. If a fearful dog was startled his instinct would be to bolt; without a reliable recall that behavior could be disastrous.

“Be sure to hold the treat close to your leg” Andrea coached her students. “We want to be sure our dogs come all the way to us for their reward. No drive-by snacks!” she smiled.

to be continued……

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