By Sue McCabe
Dog training and sunshine….What more could a girl from England ask for during a cold and miserable January?
I made a spontaneous decision in December of last year. If I’d had too long to think about it, I would never have agreed to go. Organising my business and home life at such short notice was difficult but choosing to spend three weeks in rural India enjoying the two things I love most in life, dogs and sunshine, certainly turned out to be the right decision. During the 21 day John Rogerson Dog Training and Behaviour course, which took place near Pune in January 2010, I was reminded daily that I’d made the right choice.
On the last day of the course, this became especially true. Our third week had been spent training dogs for specialist tasks. We’d worked on tracking, following ground scent laid by a human track layer. We‘d also trained the dogs to alert us to the sound of a doorbell, a task required for hearing dogs for deaf people. The most exciting project for week three however was training our dogs to detect and alert to the presence of drugs and explosives. When Belgian Malinois bitch, Esta indicated that there were explosives hidden beneath the rear wheel axle of the vehicle we were searching, I knew for sure that I would not forget this experience any time soon.
If you’ve trained with John Rogerson before, you’ll know he loves to simplify things. He has an amazing ability to get his message across so that, as he puts it ‘even a dog can understand it’. Aside from practical training, each day included discussions on a wide variety of training and behaviour topics from aggression, fears & phobias to learning theory and dealing with clients.
Week one focused on basic pet dog training skills and how to go about establishing a good relationship between dog and owner. Play forms a vital link in how we interact and control our dogs and John emphasises the importance of using toys to build on the average pet dog and owner relationship. John also believes that the average dog needs to understand only the bare minimum of commands to live a happy life, with a happy owner. If your dog knows to come when called, to stop doing something if you ask, to stay put and to walk on a loose leash, this covers all eventualities for controlling and enjoying your dog, no matter where you are.
John’s communication skills with the dogs he works with are apparent as soon as you see him train. However it is John’s ability to communicate effectively with people that is unique. Anyone who runs a course attended by Belgians, Irish, Americans, English, Scots, Germans and Indians, and who manages to keep the group working and living together happily deserves credit for his people skills.
This was most apparent during week two which focused on training dogs for sports and competition including ring craft, obedience and working trials. The mock test which took place at the end of the week brought some pressure on us. The test included a confirmation show, a formal recall and heel to finish, a demonstration of heel work and a two minute group ‘down stay’.
At this stage we had been away from home for over ten days, which brought the onset of homesickness for some and in my case, the yearning for a large slice of carrot cake. With all this in mind, John and the course organisers had timed a trip to Pune city, complete with a traditional banquet meal, with perfect precision. A cricket match between the dog trainers and local villagers also lifted the spirits of all.
The 21 day John Rogerson Dog Trainer and Behaviourist course was an intense learning and cultural experience which I highly recommend. Every trainer was paired up with a new partner and a new dog each week with people generously sharing their expertise and dog training skills throughout the group. Our YMCA accommodation was clean and functional. The food was tasty, wholesome and there was plenty of it. We were made to feel welcome by the local people and the YMCA staff. The organisers of the course, Shirin & Junaid Merchant of Canines Can Care and Sky Tracker Detection Dog Squad pvt ltd. could not have been more accommodating and helpful.
My last minute decision to spend three weeks in sunny India was certainly the right choice to make. Whilst England suffered the worst cold spell in years, we learnt dog training the John Rogerson way, using methods which not only our diverse group could comprehend, but which the dogs also clearly understood. This has to be a training course worth attending.