Training dogs is not 'for the birds'
By Jessica Warren
Sitting behind a desk stacked with various manuals,
papers and books, Nancy Roberts coaxes Payson, a 12-week-old
puppy in training, into his kennel.
Payson is being trained to be an aid dog for the disabled.
His main tasks will be opening doors, picking up dropped objects for
his companion, and other assistance needed. Roberts is currently
looking for someone to do the remainder of his training as she has a
puppy of her own right now.
Damian is a 3-month-old golden retriever in training to be a
guide dog for the blind, which is the usual training Roberts does.
Roberts has been training guide dogs since 1994, and has also
been teaching obedience lessons for the public for the past year
through Logan City Recreation Center.
She became interested in guide dogs in 1991 when she came to USU to start her masters program and saw a woman on campus with a guide dog. In 1994, she obtained her first dog from the Guide Dogs for the Blind organization with the intent to train it.
Training, according to Roberts, is for anyone to learn.
"It helps if you've raised a dog of your own, but it's not necessary," she said.
Most of the training is on the job, along with occasional workshops.
"You refine your skills over the years," said Roberts. "Some you learn by doing, some you learn by observing others."
After approximately one year of training, the dogs go back to the organization to graduate and be placed with their new owner. Roberts has stayed in touch with her various dogs' new owners over the years and is glad she could raise the dogs to give someone else a better future. She looks at giving the dogs back as gaining a friend rather than losing a pet.
Along with training dogs for the blind, Roberts teaches an obedience class once a week. The focus of the class is to train the owners to train their pets.
She says trainers need to be dedicated in order for the training to work for their animals. With a 25 to 50 percent drop rate, she challenges everyone at the beginning of the class to stay the whole course. She does say that the ones who stay usually have a good experience.
"It's been nice to see people come in and have success with their dogs."
Roberts uses a method of training called "click and treat" as opposed to the more traditional method "jerk and praise." These methods differ in the motivation given to the animal.
"Click and treat" uses sound to motivate, which enforces wanting to perform the command such as "sit." The "jerk and praise" uses force to motivate. "Click and praise" creates an eagerness to obey.
Roberts has a website with information about her dogs and dogs in general, along with links to other webpages on dogs. This address is
Roberts also recommends the following sites: