Today we had some fun on- and off-leash outside, with the campers and dogs learning to play with one another. We added the “pedestal” to our training arsenal — this is a small raised platform the dog can learn to climb on and off of, and sit or lay down on. In the afternoon, we brainstormed for a fundraiser to buy food to make meals for the homeless. (To make 60+ meals, our grocery list started with 18 cans of corn and 18 cans of green beans!) We decided to have the dogs make paintings we could sell, and everybody ran around covered with paint for a while.
Of course then we had to go swimming! Today the dogs learned to swim a little further before getting out of the pool. (This is how you learn to do things that are scary at first — take them in small increments.) To help them feel safe in the water as they swam, the campers got in the pool with them, and supported their bodies as they learned how to move in the pool.
Today the campers and dogs learned about interactive toys — toys that don’t just entertain the dog, but which require the human to be a full participant in the process. Dogs and humans were meant to play together! Everybody tried different types of toys — hiding toys which hid food, toys which made food hard to get, and a strange bell-looking thing which everybody just liked to chew on because it was made of wood. (Okay, the dogs liked to chew on it — the campers, not so much!)
In the afternoon the puppies had their first swimming lesson! Camp Doglando has a great, full-sized swimming pool, with a dock to dive off of and a rubber-covered ramp to get out with. Campers gently placed their puppies in the water and guided them right to the ramp, so their first time in the pool was short and sweet! Tomorrow will be much more exciting!
Now that the dogs have the basics down, it’s time to work on the “three D’s” — distance, duration, and distraction. The dogs can “sit” — now they have to sit for longer times (duration), sit while the handler is further and further away (distance) and sit even if someone has dropped kibble on the ground next to them (distraction)! Not every dog is great at this at first, but we are all learning!
Everybody did so well today that we went on our first field trip with the dogs — to Twistee Treat! Everybody had a great time and enjoyed their ice cream — even the dogs, who got “Pup Cups” of their own to enjoy, topped with a dog treat.
Today introduced the basics of training. Dogs and campers learned to do “crate exercises”, which is a fancy term for learning to come out of the crate politely, carefully, and only when asked. Campers introduced the dogs to the language of learning — treats! — and brought them homemade tug toys made from old shirts so they would not be lonely in their crates. Dogs and campers both learned about crate exercises, “sit”, “shake”, and “down”. The dogs had their first bath, too! We also learned about how working together with everybody else creates a web of responsibility — when one of us drops our part of the web, the whole thing falls apart!
A few lucky dogs even got to go home with their campers tonight!
This first day of camp is always full of information and wiggling dogs. The dogs are in the barn ready when the campers arrive in the morning and immediately need care! New campers learn quickly how to grab treats, leash a dog, and get that dog outside to potty. Then the crates need cleaning, and everything needs to be organized! Campers spend the day learning the rules of camp and then working with each dog so that they can find a dog that suits them.
We went on field trips to Petland, Orange County Animal Services, and the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando so that campers could see how people get pets, why people give their pets away, and what happens to pets who cannot find homes. We underscored the importance of picking the right pet, not just based on looks but also on needs — both the humans’ needs and the dogs’ needs. Then the campers and the dogs picked the right partners for each other! Camp is officially underway!