The School District of Rhinelander, along with the YMCA of the Northwoods, has an afterschool tutoring and enrichment program called CHAMPS. In the CHAMPS program we have an hour of study and work time and an hour of enrichment where we take classes like dog training, pottery, felt making, sewing, cooking or various art classes.
Last year we started dog training one night a week with Carol Lofquist who owns TLC Dog Training. She brought in several dogs to teach us how to train dogs and to help the dogs learn basic obedience skills as well as help train a few search and rescue dogs to search for hidden students in our school.
Last year we began training a Dalmatian named Bentley. We trained him during CHAMPS time after school. The people who helped train him were Taylor, Abbee, Anthony, Jamie, Danielle and me. He was learning to be a fire dog for elementary schools. A fire dog is a dog that goes to schools and teaches kids how to get out of a burning building and what to do if their clothes catch on fire. He learned to stop, drop and roll when we gave the command, “Fur’s on Fire!”, and to crawl with the command, “Burning Building!” We started out using treats and toys to train him, and eventually weaned him off of these things to have him do his “job” on command, without a treat.
When we were training him, we found that dogs could be funny, serious and just plain crazy. He was all of those things. He was funny when he hopped like a bunny instead of crawling. We had to have him crawl under a row of chairs to teach him to stay low. He was serious when there was only one practice left before performing in front of a crowd. It was kind of funny. The best part was when he was crazy. He would just run around and be crazy when he was done “working”.
We presented what Bentley had learned to our school, NCSS, on May 21. Bentley was very excited to be performing. He freaked out because there was a camera from WJFW, Channel 12. He kept on barking at it until we got his attention. After that, he stayed focused. He had already performed for the kids at Pelican school, and he will now be going out to other elementary schools to teach kids about fire safety.
What he is doing now is finishing his training with the fire department, but we will still be training him sometimes over the summer if we chose to. He will also be in the 4th of July parade the fire department in Rhinelander.