Super Duper Cooper lives up to his name!

There are lots of celebrations in the house this week because Cooper passed his Basic Obedience Certification. He has really lived up to his super name by being so wonderful! Cooper seems a bit overwhelmed and confused at all the attention he’s getting, but he sure as heck isn’t complaining about it 🙂

So proud of the two men in my life! Congratulations!!

So proud of the two men in my life! Congratulations!!

We’ve been preparing the dogs for their upcoming qualifications and despite missing a few training days due to a crazy bout of flu, a weekend trip away, and general winter-time lethargy, the dogs have excelled!

Because Phoebe and Cooper have conflicting class times (and they go insane when they see one of us training with the other dog in a different class!) I couldn’t be there for the actual event, but luckily we have a friend who kindly offered to be photographer for the day, so I don’t feel as though I missed out on too much.

The Course is a 9 week course offered through Dog on the Couch in Pretoria, and is open for any dogs who are past the puppy stage. The class consisted mainly of these adolescent dogs, with Cooper being the eldest.

What is the Basic Obedience Test?

This is a non-standardised test offered by trainers that are generally aimed at making sure that your dog is able to learn, understand and do the most basic of commands.

So what exactly did the test entail?

The test is a culmination of the training and knowledge learned in the past 9 weeks. The course consists of a weekly “practical” session on a Saturday morning where focus, commands and hands-on help is given, followed by weekly email hand outs on “theory” information is given as to how and why certain dogs learn.

A basic summary of the learning is:

  • What general breed characteristics each dog enrolled has. In this part each owner must do research on the breed of their dog, it gets discussed in class, and certain key behaviours are discussed as possible predictors of the dogs strengths and abilities that are genetically coded. Examples are whether the dog has a long history of breeding for a specific purpose such as hunting, security etc, and what the common health ailments are.
  • The basic principles of positive based training techniques and methods.
  • How to learn to begin reading your dogs’ body language and how this affects their interactions with you, other people and other dogs.
  • The importance of getting your dog to focus on you and understand what it is you want to teach them and do for you.
  • The importance of, and use of, treats, lures, bribes etc in the form of food, toys and praise and how to gradually use them less and less.
  • Basic commands: sit, stay, down, roll over, stand, walk to heel, recall, recall on the move, and focus.

Can we see what the test entailed?

Yup! Here are some pictures of those dogs that were tested that morning:

Perfect "sit"s all round

Perfect “sit”s all round

"Down"

“Down”

"Stay" up close, and with increasing distance

“Stay” up close, and with increasing distance

Walking to "heel" on a loose leash

Walking to “heel” on a loose leash

"Roll over", "Recall", "Focus" and getting some well deserved praise!

“Roll over”, “Recall”, “Focus” and getting some well deserved praise!

All the dogs who attended that morning passed the test. It was a fun morning for owners and dogs alike who were joined in camaraderie rather than competitiveness. All dogs received certificates and prizes, with one special award going to “Dobbie” the Springer Spaniel for “Most Improved Dog” – and what a truly deserving dog he was!

Well done to Dobbie and Mina on receiving a special award for "Most Improved". Lots of love and dedication went into that! :-)

Well done to Dobbie and Mina on receiving a special award for “Most Improved”. Lots of love and dedication went into that! 🙂

What was the result?

Of course Cooper passed! Though it can be a challenge to get him to focus on the work when we are at home and on walks, it’s clear the hard work has paid off because every week in class he does exactly what he’s supposed to, when he’s supposed to. He managed to pass all parts of the test with flying colours – much to our pride and joy!

Well Done Cooper!

Do you recommend the Basic Obedience Certification to others?

Yes! Yes! and again, YES! I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get a grasp of the basics with a professional. These courses are important for all dogs – whether you’re just starting out with a puppy, or even if you have an older (slightly reactive) rescue dog like us. It lays the foundation of setting boundaries and harmonious living for both you and your dog for life.

I especially encourage people to take this course because of all the extra theory work that is learned as well. This isn’t just a hastily put together basic course, but rather an informative one about all the other important aspects of being a dog owner such as the psychological well-being of a dog, learning more about other dogs, basic health care, learning about dog body language, interactions and so much more!

Will there be more?

Hmm, I’m not sure. Phoebe passed this test last year, and since then she’s completed her KUSA Canine Good Citizen – Bronze Level, and will soon be doing the Silver accreditation for this, so she’s quite far ahead of him in terms of actual qualifications, but they are very different dogs with different needs and things that they enjoy, so it will depend on how much Cooper enjoys ‘structured’ learning.

For the time-being we are going to enroll Cooper into the same Fun Class that Phoebe attends every week – as a Basic Obedience qualification is a prerequisite – and more importantly, this is the only class that is ‘on leash’ and appropriate for our reactive dogs. It will be nice to have some bonding activities with both of us humans and both dogs every week. We’ll see from there what works for each of us.

Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Cooper’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. This is one of those things that is not only great fun for you and your dog, but also so important for you both. We learned a lot about how Cooper responds, is motivated and enjoys learning in general. Though I would never say he was “out of control” when we got him, this course has definitely helped to establish some boundaries and create a language between us where we all know what to do and what is expected for maximum communication effectiveness.

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Have you completed a Basic Obedience Course or Certification? How important do you think it is to get “formal” training for you dog?

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