Lemon starts beginners obedience at the end of September. I slacked off with her as a puppy to focus on conformation, trying to avoid lessons in sitting, laying down, etc... in hopes of having a dog that was easy to handle in the conformation ring. Low and behold, I learned my lesson with Jackson that the better trained your dog is in all aspects of obedience, the better they understand what you want from them, and the better the conformation dog they are.
Jackson is now out of the conformation ring (for the most part), and getting ready to very, very seriously focus on getting his first obedience title. Lemon is also working on getting ready for her beginners obedience class. Techinically, she doesn't have to know anything before we go in. But, I think it is very helpful if she at least understands the basics... sit, down, stay, come.
What was really fun tonight was training with both dogs using the dumbbell. Jackson and I have worked (not hard enough as it is the most difficult task for him and therefore the least fun) for a year on dumbbell retrieving and he barely will hold it in his mouth still. Lemon is my little toy/retriever girl, so while we started small (her holding it), in her first training session she was already picking it up off the ground and placing it in my hand. To make those strides in the first lesson (versus the first year) is just a reminder of how some dogs have different strengths.
But, after taking that teaching approach with her, I decided to try something different with Jackson. I decided that maybe trying to get him to just hold it wasn't challenging enough or didn't convey the purpose (what I wanted him to do) sufficiently for him to understand. So we took a big step. It involved me and him sitting on the floor together, me rolling the dumbbell a few feet away, coaching him towards the "get it", and surprise, surprise... Jackson can retrieve the dumbbell too. It was just a reminder that when you do something over and over again, sometimes it is best to step back and try a different approach.