Homeschooling Your Dogs

5 Oct

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I homeschool my wiener dogs and have for years. They learn better without all the distractions that can happen in a large classroom. And I feel better knowing that no one is taunting them for their short legs and long bodies.

In case you are thinking of trying homeschooling yourself, let me share with you my dogs’ daily class schedule to help you set up your own canine curriculum.

1st period: Music. I play either my thumb-harp or guitar very badly – as is my way – and they howl along in delight – or anguish. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. The goal here is to get them to sing every morning because studies show that music improves learning and retention. Alternative: If you live near a fire station, rather than schedule music class first thing every morning, be flexible and start your lesson whenever sirens go off. If you have a reluctant singer, start the howling yourself.

2nd period: P.E. Regular exercise is vital for both the brain and body, so I like to make sure that my dogs get theirs in early every day. Probably the most important suggestion I have for you is that it’s important to tailor the class for each dog so that they stay interested and motivated and less likely to bite your ankles (or your knees, for those of you with taller dogs).

Here’s our current schedule: Murray’s class consist of 30 minutes of my tossing the ball down the hall, his retrieving it and then making me chase him around my desk to pry it from his mouth. We both wear a Fitbit to keep track of our steps, but I multiply his by 7. Katja gets her physical activity by running in the back yard chasing squirrels, then coming inside and demanding I open the other door so she can do the same in the front yard. I get a nice upper body workout from opening and closing doors 200-300 times during class. Sanders is in a higher grade and his PE class consists simply of circling on a pillow until it is soft enough for a nap. I try not to join him, but sometimes the teacher needs a break.

3rd period: Ethics. If we’ve learned anything from the world in the last few years, it’s that everyone could use some more instruction of wrong and right, good and evil, friend and foe. In our class, we concentrate specifically on who NOT to bite (mail carrier, trash man, friends, improv troupe) and who TO bite (ex-husbands, anyone trying to get me to vote against my own reproductive rights. We also have a unit on who NOT to hump (basically everyone, unless consent is given). Consent is a regular topic of discussion and I am proud to say that my dogs understand what that means better than most human men.

4th period: Art. Stimulating canine creativity is vital to success later in life, so we do some form of art every day. In the spring, class consists primarily of painting all the windows in the house with nose prints. These paintings are monochromatic and primal and would probably sell for big bucks in a gallery, but we’re not in this for the money. In the fall and winter, art class consists of dragging leaves and mud into the house and stomping them firmly into the rugs and furniture. This is messy, but the colors are delightful and justify purchasing a new vacuum cleaner.

5th period: Math and Science. There are many ways to teach math to your dogs in a way that is both fun and informative. For example, I put five cookies in my palm and offer two each to two dogs and only one to the other. Every time, the shortchanged dog will growl and insist that s/he needs another, showing that s/he is able to do both division and addition. Most of our science lessons, on the other hand, revolve around gravity and take place in the kitchen around meal preparation.

6th period: Field trips. We take ours literally to a field somewhere nearby. This not only gets everyone out of the house, it allows the dogs an opportunity to learn wildlife identification techniques. For example, I may ask, “Whose poo is that?” or “Was that hole dug by a gopher, a mole, or a Republican Senator emerging from the bowels of hell?”

You, of course, will want to tailor your curriculum so that it meets the specific academic needs of your pooch or pooches. But if you stick to it, you will succeed as a canine home-school teacher, as I have. I am proud to say that right now, all three of my hounds are on the Dean’s list! Cookies for everyone!

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