Unique to the Orion program is the Dog Training Program. An interdisciplinary approach is taken to introducing the topic of dogs, using them as a metaphor for much of human life. Freshmen learn about the long relationship between dogs and people, exploring the evolution of dogs, their physical characteristics and social behavior, and then examine dog breeds. They also look at the work dogs do with and for people (herding, carting, tracking, hunting, guarding, search and rescue, assistance to the blind and other service jobs) plus the many sports people now enjoy with dogs. Along the way, students learn much about dog communication, both with other dogs and with people.
Sophomores learn how to “read” and train dogs, reinforcing theory with hands-on work with the school dogs. They start by studying opperant and classical conditioning,learn how clicker training works, and use these skills to handle dogs in all 10 of the Canine Good Citizen tests. Basics mastered, they expand their skills to teach dogs new behaviors, and prepare a demonstration for the end-of-the-year Dog Party. Students also study dog body language, learning from videos, readings, and personal observation. Students will have access to dogs that are already trained during their first year and second year, to develop their basic skills as a trainer.