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Nancy Coolidge | Getting rid of distractions can work wonders

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My dog, Lexi, is part border collie and part golden retriever. When I adopted her from the Humane Society, she was 1 year old. I had hoped for the collie brains and the retriever disposition, but, of course, got the opposite, so I decided training was a must!

She was doing well — not as well as I thought she’d do, but she was improving daily and I knew consistency was critical. So when I decided to visit my family for 10 days during the holidays, I was dreading the training after such a long break.

When I picked her up, she confirmed my fears: she bounded into the car without waiting for my OK, and I bemoaned the work ahead of us.

The next day, I put on her leash and we worked through our routine: heel, right about, left turn, right turn, sit, stay and finish. She even went down when I told her, although she pulled a little ahead of where she ought to be positioned. I was surprised. I was ecstatic!

The next five days had the same high level of performance. What I learned from this is that she does know what she’s supposed to do, and can do it well if she’s not distracted by her unspent energy. She’s a very active dog whose energy and intelligence and stubbornness interfere with her ability to focus. So I wear her out now before she has a chance to get into trouble. And I praise her like crazy!

Children require the same opportunities. They need the right environment. They need the routine of time and place. They need to have worked off some energy, eaten a decent snack, and shaken off any frustrations from their day.

Always try to set up study time at the same time and in the same place. Make certain all necessary materials are provided. Give frequent, short breaks. And praise, praise, praise their successes.

Wenatchee resident Nancy Coolidge is a classroom teacher, radio personality and director of several Sylvan Learning Centers. You can ask her a question by posting a comment on her Good Habits, Great Grades blog at or by emailing