Life On Other Planets

Do you think there is life on other planets? Ask that to a class of 29 sixth graders. 13 will raise their hands, the highest they can reach while sitting on one leg scrunched up under them to make them taller so their hand is higher, emitting a sound, uh, uh, uh….. Four, with the coke bottle classes, Salvation Army pants to short and waist too high, will shout out the answer. It will be analytical and interesting, which will make you wish could sit with just those four students to discuss the philosophical approach to the possibility of life on other planets. Five students, four boys and one girl will have hands inside their desk, whittling colored pencils, carving their name in the desk, writing notes about another student, or dipping their finger in a dry Kool-Aid packet to stick in their mouth. 2 students are sitting low in their desk, with a book propped in their desk, reading a Goosebumps novel. One student is staring at the heater vent. One is picking lint from the carpet. One is draped over upside down, across her chair, staring at the underside of her desk. Two, it’s hard to tell what they are doing. During my fresh out of college days, I thought all students would quietly raise their hands, eyes glued to the short blond lady, the deliverer of knowledge, to call upon them so that the exchange of information would engage and entertain these young, fresh minds. Ok, I sure had that wrong. This might happen on another planet. It doesn’t happen on this one.
So, what does a teacher do? They change their approach. Figure out how to create interest, motivate, excite, entice, do something that can engage most of those students to be somewhat interested in what you are attempting to transfer from your brain to theirs. This is the same approach when training your dog. Think, “how do I transfer what I want them to do, into their brain so they will do it.”

Language barriers make it a little more challenging when working with a dog, but they are dual language learners. They are also much more sensitive to all our other communication methods. They smell us, our breath, our fear, our love, a cat hair on our clothes, every smell we release or carry. They are in tune with the variations in our voice, the pitch, the tone, every vibrate flowing from our mouth is an indication of how we feel. They are keen to the slope of our shoulders and the tilt of our head, the swagger in our walk, the direction our eyes are looking. Our dog Hershey knew the sound of the last spoonful of cereal my son would eat in the morning. Hershey knew that he would be the cleaner of the bowl after that last spoonful was eaten. It is important to be aware that your dog is aware of these senses, along with finding what motivates them to learn. Dogs are just as individual as 29 sixth grades. Some things will motivate some and not others. Occasionally, what worked as motivation once, may or may not work again. Have your toolbox of ideas ready. Here are some common motivation strategies for dogs:
Food. Use small pieces of healthy foods. Carrots, cheese, apples, healthy dog treats. Have it ready in your pooch pouch.
Attention. Some dogs will do anything for some love. Be careful with hugs. A pat, and a “good dog,” is usually enough.
Play. You know those dogs. The ones that can chase a ball until the cows come home. Use a few minutes of play time, while telling them how good they are.
Keep your voice and body calm. Speak kind things. A dog may not know what the words mean. They will know the intent of the words.

When I could get 25 out of 29 students interest and somewhat engage, it was success. Consistency, patience, an endless supply of ideas and support from seasoned teachers is the formula I found to be the bird that got the worm. Training a dog requires the same. There are always a few, that will never understand what is going on, but I always continued to do my best with them. Always do your best with your dog, they know you are trying.

Posted by
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl Wilson created Why We Wag in 2012 as her result of her lifelong love of dogs. After 22 years in the Educational sector, Cheryl utilizes her expertise as an award winning educator, to educate dog lovers, along with offering supplies that support a healthy, meaningful relationship with canines. Residing in Utah, Cheryl is celebrating her 5th generation with dogs and now her first generation of grand-dogs.