Monday, May 30, 2011

IPOC

I am a member of the Imperial Polk Obedience Club (IPOC) here in Lakeland.

IPOC is an obedience club. People come there to train their dogs - for basic manners, and further on into dog sports, if they so choose to do so.

I joined IPOC three years ago, when I adopted Delilah. I did not know very much about dog training - I had read a little online, but had never seen it really applied. Cozmo was a fairly well behaved dog, but I did not really take any part of his training. He just turned out the way he is mostly out of luck.

Delilah is a big dog. I knew this when I adopted her, even when she was sick and skinny she was 94 lbs. I'm quite a bit heavier than her, but 94 lbs hitting the end of a leash can do a number on your arms. It can drag you to your knees when the dog at the end of the leash sees a squirrel.

It did not take me long to realize I needed help teaching her to walk nicely on a leash. I had heard of IPOC on the internet but never really checked them out - I thought $85 for an obedience class was pretty steep, and I wasn't sure they were what I was looking for.

Then I talked to a co-worker who had taken a puppy obedience class there and enjoyed it, and I thought I'd give it a shot.

Turns out Delilah qualified for a discount because she was a rescue dog. We paid $55 for our first class. It was an 8 week class and it covered basic obedience - sit, down, stay, walking nicely on a leash, leave it, and wait.  I was given instructions on how to teach the behaviors (mostly using rewards, luring, and shaping)  and then given 'homework' to practice throughout the week.

With this gentle instruction, after 8 weeks I had a dog who was able to do all the items practiced in class, so I decided to come back for a second round, and take their Advanced Basic Obedience class. She excelled, my confidence grew. I started to talk to club members and found they were like me - very much loved their dogs, and wanted to spend a lot of time with them.

Some of them did competition Obedience, some did Conformation, some did Rally, some did Agility. Everyone I talked to was eager to help me, and wanted me to succeed with my dog.

I decided I wanted to join the club. I would receive more discounts on classes, but I really wanted to get involved. I wanted to learn more, I wanted to work with my dogs and be around dogs.

I'm a very shy person, so even after joining the club I did not do much. I came to help with cleaning, with setting up, and then I volunteered to steward at an obedience trial. I thought dog showing was all Conformation. Ha! Crash course - dog sports are awesome!

I was blown away when I saw a dog retrieve a dumbbell over a jump. I was amazed when I watched a dog in the Utility ring select a scented article amongst a ring of others. I loved the teamwork and happy tail wagging of dogs in the Rally ring.

The more I learned - the more I wanted to do! I soon signed up Cozmo and Thunder for obedience classes as well, and all three dogs passed their Canine Good Citizen test.

I enrolled Delilah and Cozmo into their Therapaws program, and began visiting different nursing homes around my county with them. (And after another year or so of training, Thunder would join as well).


The first dog sport I fell in love with was Rally. Rally is sort of an obstacle course that the handler and dog must work through as a team. You start with 100 points, and points are deducted if you make a mistake, and if you score 70 or higher, you qualify. Three qualifying legs, and you earn a title. There are three levels of difficulty in Rally - Novice, Advanced, and Excellent, with Advanced and Excellent being off-leash.

Cozmo going through a Novice Rally course.

I loved Rally. I found the teamwork with the handler and the dog fascinating, and the more I worked my dogs, the more I wanted to do! My dogs were learning! I helped Delilah and Cozmo both earn their Rally Novice titles, and Delilah has two legs towards her Rally Advanced, though she is now retired and will not complete the title.

Because I found IPOC, I have learned so much about training, dogs, and myself. I've learned to push myself, and that dogs are smarter than we think. I've learned a new way to enjoy my dogs, to spend time with them and bond.

Then a few years later, I realized I had to give back. I volunteer a lot around my club - I often steward at trials, I help clean up, I am the Club Secretary, and I am learning to be a Trial Secretary for our upcoming obedience trial. I even teach the Kinderpuppy Basic Obedience class now.

The club is not perfect, but I have made a lot of friends there, and I feel really welcomed. I feel that after all I've learned from them, my input is just as valued now.

I love being a member of IPOC. I love what the club does - I love how much we give to the community. In addition to Therapaws, we give deep discounts to rescued dogs from our local SPCA and Animal Control. We attend various events in the community and offer help and advice to anyone who needs it. We want to help the public with their dogs - we want them to enjoy their dogs, love their dogs, and help them to be parts of the family.

This club means a lot to me.

There are dog clubs like IPOC all over the place if you look around. Some searching on Google will often yield results not too far, and you'd be surprised how many places like IPOC are actually out there.

Take a look at your local obedience clubs, see what they have to offer. See what you can learn, and in turn, what you can share. Dog sports are incredibly fun and I have met some incredible people since becoming involved. Maybe there is a club out there for you.

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