Class by class, students from Evelyn Dickson Elementary learned about — and some even experienced first-hand — dog training from Prince George-based canine sports competitors on May 17.
At the school’s upper sports field, trainers with over 10 dogs from Pawsitive Steps Canine Sports Centre — including a former national finalist named Chase — demonstrated agility with an obstacle course of hurdles, ramps, closely-placed poles, and curved tunnels.
After dogs jumped, weaved and sped through the course amidst cheers from students and teachers, volunteers from each class were teamed up with a four-legged competitor to perform a relay race.
While some were trained for agility, others were more recognized for their tracking ability. As students hid in the bush, a search and rescue dog tracked them down after smelling their scent on a piece of gauze.
Emmy, a Bluetick Coonhound sporting a pink harness that indicates tracking, wear different harnesses for different activities she’s doing, explained trainer Sheri Grantham to the audience. Another trained dog also exhibited its sense of smell, used also for locating bombs and controlled substances, as it located essential oils that were hidden in one of many boxes spread out on site.
“While some can smell better than others, dogs can smell about 10,000 times better than humans,” trainer Sandra Morrison told the students.
Trainers also explained the difference between a service and a therapy dog, with a Labrador Retriever named Monty, who is trained as a service dog for the blind.
Teacher organizer Bonnie Toll says it’s an opportunity for the students to learn about the growth mindset, as one of the trainers introduced Josie, a dog who used to be scared of crowds but progressed after three years of training.
“It’s about accepting challenges,” Toll said. “Even though they are hard, you keep on going. We should never give up even when things are very difficult.”
For Grade 2 student Taylor Siemens, racing through the obstacle course was fun.
“The weaves were a bit tricky and the tunnel was kinda dark,” Siemens said, adding that her favourite part was the tunnel. “I like zooming through it.
She has 19 cats and one German Shepherd named Lady. “Off Lady and the Tramp,” she said.