Sunday, December 26, 2010

Setting Rookies up for Success

I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a rookie, so doing a traditional holiday dinner with all the trimmings is an easy peasey no stress affair.  With tried and true recipes and over three decades experience with timings, there is never any doubt in my mind that things will be a success.
To be perfectly honest, there WAS one year that I didn't do the meal.   The last year that my daughter was home, we had agreed that it would be a great idea if she did the whole shebang, from start to finish.   This way she wouldn't be working without a net ... and if things went awry there would be a calmer head on deck to steer things back on course.
Does that mean there has been no need for "phone consultations" since she moved out on her own?  Of course not!  But both the dry run and the help line have made her a confident holiday chef whose dinners are already becoming legendary on their own.
This year she and her hubby have adopted their first family dog.   Even though she had lived with dogs at home since she was small, it is a completely different kettle of fish to have your own first family dog.    They perused Petfinder and her choice narrowed down to a lovely six month old lab/ bull terrier mix.
Before they brought her home, they had followed the links on the Pet Care Resource page to the great dog training guides listed there.  Did that set them up for success?   Not completely.   Over the first two weeks after they brought Jessie home, there were innumerable phone calls and at times their confidence was starting to falter.
Obedience classes were booked for January ... but what could be done in the here and now?   The shelter where they adopted Jessie from was long on suggesting they were irresponsible and short on offering any practical advice.
What would have happened if they hadn't had the resource of mom's help line?  What happens when there isn't a dog experienced grandogmother who just happens to have a myriad of expertise to tap into?  What kind of outcome is there for folks who have never needed to know about setting boundaries and clicker training before?  Who have never heard of agility training and don't know that dog club members are probably chock full of helpful practical suggestions too?
Probably what happens with a lot of well intentioned first time pet owners.   Good intentions fly out the window when they are overwhelmed and don't know where to turn.  Pets are returned/ surrendered/ passed on to someone else / sentenced to life on the end of a chain / or a myriad of even Unhappier Tails.
So here is my what if for today - What if every fall, municipalities were able to put on free workshops ... kind of a First week with Fido 101.   It is simply a fact of life that many families are going to bring home their first family dog during the holiday season.
Instead of being uppity about that ... instead of expecting these "rookies' to already know the ropes.. why not set them up for success instead?  These workshops could even be sponsored so that participants could get a little ten percent discount off obedience classes with local trainers.   Just imagine the possibilities!
Setting aside the fact that it would reduce the rescue workload, it would also help awaken more pet owners to the myriad of good training options available these days.    Even better, it would encourage new dog owners to bring their new best friends to obedience classes.  Best of all, it would help kind hearts to become the responsible pet owners who will become the 'dream adopters' of tomorrow.
What time is it?   Its time to remember that setting rookie dog owners up for success is always time well spent.

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