Tonight I have been to Dig It assessing Silver and Gold level classes. Up until last year The Kennel Club allowed people within certain professions, such as police dog handlers and dog wardens, to assess the scheme without going through their training courses, as long as you had knowledge of the KCGCS by either training your own dog through it and/or being involved in teaching it yourself. After about a year of teaching at Dig It I started assessing.
In May 2015 The Kennel Club changed their assessor rules and all those who were eligible through their profession had to apply to be placed on a ‘B list’ and you could no longer automatically assess based on your profession, you had to be approved to assess by the Kennel Club. Thankfully the KC placed me on the B List and I was able to continue.
Assessments can be pretty stressful. An unknown person is coming in to “test” you. Watch you perform tasks with your dog. Plus there’s no treats or toys allowed out while you do them! Scary.
It’s not supposed to be stressful and whenever I go in to assess a class I always try to make everyone feel at ease and replicate a normal class situation, straight from the word go. Sometimes the instructor will take the class through the assessment and I will just quietly watch and decide if the owner and dog are ready or not to achieve their level. The Kennel Club set out the scheme to promote good, responsible dog ownership and while each task must be completed to a certain standard, overall I am looking for responsible owners. Are they a good citizen?
I try to be as lenient as possible and give the owners time to show what they can do it. For me the best and most responsible people are those that work through a problem with their dogs. It’s what they do when the dog doesn’t sit on first command, or is sniffing and distracted while doing some loose lead walking that really shows me what type of dog handler that person is. Can that owner connect with their dog and get their engagement and attention?
At the end of the day the result of the assessment does not declare you fit or not to own a dog. Things happen and training is a constant journey, not something that ends once you have passed a “test”. Sometimes there can be a loud bang outside that causes a dog who has sat still for 45 seconds to break it’s stay, and then be too worked up to relax enough to stay again that evening. Unfortunately an assessment can only go so far to help owners to achieve it, and while passing a Kennel Club Good Citizen level is a great achievement, it should not be taken as the be all and end all.
An owner and dog may have worked tirelessly for 8 weeks of classes, practiced their homework, hung on to every word from their instructor and tried desperately to understand the new techniques and practical advice that they have been given in what is a confusing world of new dog ownership. If they were not to pass their assessment that should not remove any credit that they deserve for their 2 months of hard work! It just means that they are not quite ready to meet the guidelines of the assessment.
Of course I do not wish to take any praise away from those that have achieved an award, congratulations, you have done great and should be very proud! But those that haven’t quite made it shouldn’t feel disheartened.
As always I’ve seen a variety of wonderful owners and dogs tonight which is what I love about assessing. Every dog and every person is different and there’s always something to learn from seeing an owner work with their dog. Well done to each and every one of you that goes forward for assessment, and good luck!
[ I would like to point out that this post was written and drafted before I assessed tonight and in no way are any comments directed at or about any individuals that I assessed tonight. ]