Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trout: The May Challenge of the Month

When I was in the middle of the Waggles website redesign and launch last fall we came up with a series of monthly articles. A bit less formal than a newsletter and easier to manage content than a blog. This section morphed out of the under-used "Trials and Tribulations" content of the old site, now with three section headers highlighting Love, Learning and Competition.

The love section asks a Waggler to write about their dog (or dogs) - specifically on the topic of what they love most about their dog. We've had some fantastic articles - so much so that when it's time to publish the next edition of the website I haven't been able to bring myself to pull down the previous month's content!

The competition section is an essay about competition - individual paths, unique goals, challenges. They sky can be the limit. We've had essays about folks who are just getting started in competition, on the topic of instructors, and of course Hannah's MACH!

For the learning section I pick a behavior or trick and challenge our students (past, present and future) to teach the behavior or trick to their dogs. If they can demonstrate their trick to us during the challenge month (in person or in video) we'll put their name in a drawing to win a special prize. It's all in good fun and we've had some folks really step up to the plate (and out of their comfort zones) to teach these tricks.

Murphy and Teller are always my guinea pigs as I come up with new content for the challenges. Essentially they are my furry gauges on the difficulty of the tricks that I'm asking our students to teach their dogs. Both boys are incredibly clicker savvy (operant) dogs so I aim to shape the behavior in two relatively short (one stick) sessions. I try to choose tricks and behaviors that will ultimately be useful for dogs and handlers should they choose to go on with - or continue their training.

When I've zero'ed in on the challenge of the month, Teller often becomes my model dog for the learning portion of the website because (among other things) he loves to pose for the camera, he's pretty cute while he's doing it and he will hold a pose as long as I ask him so that I can get a good shot. It's also important (to me) to use original content whenever possible - partially because it's cheaper than buying stock content - but it's guaranteed to be original. How many times have we navigated corporate content only to find the same stock image used over and over again?

I've called this month's trick "Trout". For no other reason than April's trick was called "Perch". The Perch trick required that dogs put their two front feet on an object (paint can, pot, stool, etc) and when trying to think of a name for the same trick with the dog's two rear feet all I could think of was "Trout" - though I'm pretty sure NOW that the opposite of a Perch is actually a Sturgeon. 

Demonstrations of Trout and Perch:

It's so much fun to see our students embrace the challenge of teaching new behaviors. We ask that folks shape these tricks (or at least try to shape them) and it's super to see their dogs start to really think about offering behaviors! So go out and Trout!

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