Megan's Musings: Lessons from the Easter Bunny

 For the past 10 years, Dogma has hosted an Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt for the dogs. The initial goal of this was to create a fun Easter event that we could participate in with our dogs. It started as a half-day event and has now evolved to a multi-day scavenger hunt. We’ve always loved hosting events at Dogma. Many of these events were modified or cancelled with the pandemic, and I’ve been reflecting on why these mean so much to us and are such a big part of the #DogmaDifference. I’ve learned a lot and seen great benefits from the Easter event over the years, and the Easter Bunny has even taught me many great lessons about us and our dogs.

Progress Not Perfection
I continually observe people taking their dog into a new situation, and when their dog is not perfectly behaved, they give up. What I love about this event is that the tasks encourage you to keep trying and getting your dog out. It’s normal for our dogs to struggle with the excitement of new situations. Each year, people are impressed with their dog’s progress over such a short time. This is because they keep at it, have fun, and don’t give up when it’s not perfect. I imagine we’d see dogs be able to do so much more with us if we all understood this point better.

Scary Doesn’t Need to Stay Scary
The majority of dogs are weary of the Easter Bunny to start, and this is normal. They move differently, are large, have big eyes that don’t move or blink, and are unlike anything most dogs have encountered before. We open our events to all dogs, including fearful and reactive dogs, and most guardians take some convincing to try an introduction. It’s wonderful to demonstrate that with the right approach, using food rewards and good space, the dogs can overcome these fears and learn to love what they were initially scared of.  This is an incredibly valuable lesson that leads into the next one.

Change Behaviour Don’t Manage It
We pride ourselves on our UrbanK9 programs for all dogs. The goal of which is to help dogs be successful in our busy human world. All dogs can, and should have, the opportunity to be included in our day-to-day activities. Too often, we measure our dog’s success by not misbehaving or not showing fear/reactivity. However, this is commonly done by hyper-managing them, so they don’t have the opportunity to misbehave and/or react. This is not changing their behaviour and does not help them integrate into our urban environment. Our scavenger hunt event, plus the time getting to meet the Easter Bunny, demonstrates what changing behaviour looks like and it goes far beyond management. By committing the time, working at their pace, utilizing food rewards, and working with a trainer, your dog can overcome their behaviour concerns. By going beyond management, we can allow our dogs to live fulfilled and enriched lives.

Socialization Matters
This statement should be obvious, but we see too many dog owners limit the time they take their dogs out into the world and expose them to new things while pairing with positives. The benefits of proper active socialization are plentiful; it builds confidence, enhances the bond with your dog, prevents behaviour concerns, enables them to do more with us, and so much more. We see big results after just a short time with this event. I’d love to see so many more puppies than what we see involved each year, as it proves to be such a valuable way to get out and provide that critical socialization.

Training Should Be Fun
The best part about the scavenger hunt is seeing how much joy these activities bring to the dogs and their families. It’s an incredible bonding experience and we aim to turn many of the mundane training skills into fun activities by simple things like having the participants wear bunny ears or interacting in silly ways with each other or the environment. As soon as you add an element of silly, the seriousness of the training disappears, and we just have fun – which in turn creates better results. An important lesson to take into all training sessions with our pups.

There is still time to register if you are ready to make this commitment to your dog! Find out more and register on our event page. If you can’t make this one, don’t worry, we will have another next year. Plus, stay tuned for more fun events we host throughout the year! Training can be fun, and we are here to ensure it stays that way for both you and your dog.