Accent on Living

ARE the dog schools doing their part ? It isn’t often that one can think up a new function for schools of education. They seem to have taken care already of most human activities, and for educators who would like to study how to teach arc and gas welding, or automobile driving, or baton twirling, or advanced upholstery,1 the curricula are bulging with courses. For each subject there is also an additional course in how to learn the visual aids in teaching that subject. It all adds up to quite a lot of subjects; in fact, when it comes to teaching how to teach anything at all, the schools of education are well established in the you-name-it-we’ve-got-it category. I point this out in all deference, for I realize that these courses, and their visual aids, must be far more important than they seem.

All the more remarkable, then, is the failure of the school of education to take cognizance of a new and rapidly expanding area of teaching: the dog schools. There are roughly three columns of kennels and dog schools listed in the Boston classified telephone book, and in many respects they are not unlike other schools — that is, they offer a formal curriculum, their plant and playground facilities are considerable, they maintain a school-bus service, and they are prepared to cope with the problem dog as well as with the dog of average aptitude.

Like other schools, the dog school provides supervision for various pupilinitiated activities; it expects an adequately dog-centered off-campus environment for its pupils, and no one need be surprised if Owner-Teacher Associations begin springing up. (A spaniel of my acquaintance was fired from his dog school because of the “unsympathetic” attitude which the school sensed in his owner, a Cambridge housewife.) The dog school, in short, seeks to produce an on-going, out-giving, rounded dog, who can live creatively, whose percentile rank will equate with that of his neighbors — a fully integrated dog.

But it becomes necessary, as the demand for dog-sitters and dog-teachers increases, to ask what standards are being followed in the recruitment and accrediting of staffs. Is the philosophy of modern dog-education understood by the teacher? Would not a minimum of 18 semester hours in dog-education be a proper requirement of those to whom our dogs are entrusted? Can we now formulate objective criteria of teaching success?

I know several dog-school graduates, and the variations in their behavior suggest that no clear pattern of standards has yet emerged from the schools. One of them, a dachshund, continues to bark wildly at my arrival, just as he did before attending the school, even though he knows me well and I am accompanied by his owner. Several others — notably a poodle and an Irish setter — jump on me and claw my wife’s nylons, while still another jumps and barks at all comers.

The only dog which appears to have responded to the schooling behaves, on the other hand, as if it were constantly awaiting a command to sit, or stay, or heel, and it seems disappointed when no new order is forthcoming — a case, perhaps, of overstudy.

The need of attention from the schools of education is obvious. Some of the dog schools, one suspects, are at present little more than diploma mills.

  1. University of Maryland