Regular Meetings: The Key to Successful Puppy Development
After getting involved with raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind it becomes clear just how important regular meetings are to the development of training. Not only are they important for the active puppies in training, they are vital to volunteers continuing to learn how best to work with these amazing dogs and tap into their potential.
Meeting schedules vary from club to club throughout the puppy raising territory and are one of the most personalized parts of puppy raising. Each club is expected to run a mixture of “outings” and “training meetings” for volunteers and puppies to attend. “Outings'' are meetings held out in the community and focus on participating in an experience or going somewhere novel. This helps our raisers work their pups in situations and environments that they may not personally frequent. It’s important to be able to effectively manage and work with a dog to give them the confidence to be calm and collected in new spaces. During “training meetings” we review key points in the Puppy Raising manual to make sure that cues, behaviors, and games are being taught the exact same way in every household. These are the meetings where Leaders can be especially vigilant and help point out areas where a raiser could use a new or different handling/training technique to help their pup improve. The importance of continuity is huge when you consider that each puppy in our club spends at least a week out of each month in a different house on a puppy trade or puppy sit. Ensuring that training is the same everywhere gives the pup even more confidence that they are doing the correct thing in a new environment with a new person because they already know the games that they will be playing and the expectations they will be held to.
As a leader, one of my responsibilities is to make sure that we have plans in place for each of these meetings! Club Leadership is responsible for teaching the information that we are reviewing, making sure that we have an activity or game to go over that corresponds to the subject, having a place to meet that accommodates our needs for the evening, having any equipment necessary for the training, and making sure that everyone is participating. While getting to come up with new ideas for meetings can be amazingly fun, the logistics of pulling this together every week can be complicated. Between some clubs not having a spot that they can count on for regular meetings, coordinating with raisers who have had something unexpected come up, and changes to rules for gathering (like distancing and masks during the pandemic), organizing and running meetings is one of the most time intensive parts of running a club.