highs and lows

I taught a class tonight with two newcomers. I did the same intro lesson as I did a few weeks ago…

And… let me say, it feels like a catastrophic failure. I introduced myself, what I’ve done, where I’ve trained, etc, then got them to do some restrained recalls to see how their dogs went and to get them into the idea of chasing and playing. Agility=fun, right?

So, the guy with the belgian shepherd goes first. That’s ok… then the lady with the rottie who doesn’t play with toys… all fine. Shepherd has another go, rottie slips her collar and starts getting all loud and full-on. It wasn’t aggression, or things would have been a lot more full-on, but the rottie is a big dog, and makes big-dog noises. The lady maintains that her dog loves everyone and wants to play. Ok… sure… I don’t intervene- I want the lady to deal with the problem. She calls the dog a few times and it comes.

We do a bit more of this, the rottie runs off again and starts getting all loud with the shepherd. The guy kicks this lady’s dog with his steel-capped boots. She gets the rottie, puts it on lead.

I suggest we have a break and do my human-clicker game. I think it’s really valuable for people to be in the position their dog is in when it’s trying to figure out what behaviour you want, and the game went down really well the other time. The guy was very sceptical. Having trained schutzhund or very strict obedience, the idea of ‘letting the dog think for itself’ was a hard one to grasp, I suspect. The lady had a similarly hard time. Trying to get them to understand the idea of gradual steps was also near-impossible. I’m sorry but you can’t sit down with a bucket of food and wait your dog out hoping it will eventually give you a handstand. No. So after that went poorly, they got their dogs to have a go with them. Slightly more success then, though the shepherd, perhaps not surprisingly, had a very difficult time looking away from its owner. It’s been taught attention=everything, which, I’m sorry, is going to be to your detriment in agility. Anyway, they did ok and the dogs were starting to interact with the objects.

We did some tunnels, again, somewhat failing there as although the shepherd was initially quite anxious about going in it, he wanted it longer straight away. Sure, maybe I should close the weave-poles and set up a course while we’re at it, I think you’re about ready!!!

Then it was really awkward because he started to talk about dog aggression and what I was going to do about it and that he had issues with it. I explained that it was our first time meeting and given what I saw we’ll probably keep the rottie on a long line for now and work on those issues. He proceeded to tell the woman that she needed to ‘nip the problem in the bud’ and should have punished her dog for running off (um, how? maybe she should have kicked it when it eventually came back to her. That would be AWESOME) and how his dog is superior (basically) because it focuses on him, not on anything else (so?). Meanwhile she gets all snarky (fair enough, he’s basically calling her dog aggressive) but that she’ll come back next week, and he says he will to (yayy… lucky me).

I suspect he thinks that because he’s done obedience, because he “taught” (read: lured) his dog to climb a ladder he’s ready to like, run a course. I’d love to set up a course and say: Ok, you don’t need foundation? Great. Run this.

I just feel so deflated- my first two were so great and open to the ideas and were playing with and having fun the whole time… these two looked sour for the whole hour and got forbid if their dogs should look somewhere or be distracted while we were standing around talking. This resulted in lots of collar pops and “SIT, yes, SIT!!! yes SIT! yes SIT!” (dog didn’t get rewarded for the yesses, by the way). So… fun times had by all, really.

Penny mentioned to me the idea of an “experience agility class”, charging twice as much and just getting people to play on the equipment and lure through the weaves and stuff. Once I have my dogwalk, I might seriously consider it cos it’ll mean people like this can just do that stuff and don’t have to mess around the foundation stuff.


3 thoughts on “highs and lows

  1. Rosie says:

    UUUUGHHH! I hate those people. They arrive with an attitude, and they certainly LEAVE with one. And I’m sorry to say, it’s usually the guys. Almost always. Thing is, when you meet any owner, you have to decide what “angle” that person is coming from. It’s certainly possible he not only MEANS it with the collar pops and no reward, but that’s the type of PERSON he is, and you’re not going to change him. I always explain what type of trainer I am, and how it corresponds to the type of person I am. I will not change this to accommodate a student. And I don’t expect them to accommodate me either. This way, they see and understand that not only will I NOT teach by corrections, I can’t, because it’s not honest. And dogs see dishonesty in a heartbeat.

    • This must have been very frustrating for you 😦 I know I would not be looking forward to those two!

      It’s funny tough, I am the type of person who (I think) could train using corrections if I didn’t have the good luck to learn a better way early on. It was how I was raised and I suspect I would be fine with dealing with my dogs the same way.

      My colleague comes from the same background. He recently adopted a Spanish greyhound and used what he learned from Cesar Milan. Because of his background it was very easy to adopt Cesar’s way of thinking. But we talked and I explained how the positive methods result in my whippets reacting differently to me than his greyhound.

      It was difficult at first because for him it felt wrong that he should be “paying” the dog to behave in ways he would like her to, as if his rightful place as the leader of the team was challenged… after all she is a dog and in his mind dogs are supposed to obey. But fortunately he saw great value in building a relationship of trust and he is willing to change his view of dogs so he can have that. Sometimes it’s still hard, but it’s getting easier.

      It would never work to appeal to his moral sense (“it’s not fair to the dog to pop her collar”), because in his life that’s how society worked – those higher up were bullying their subordinates into submission. That’s how his family worked (yeah, not a happy family).

      So while you can never change another person, you can explain the effect of different methods and hope it gives them a goal to strive for.

  2. Laura says:

    Keep up the good work! As you very well know with the challenges of the school day, some days more than others! Work on the positives reward those (behaviour from the owners and dogs) ignore the rest. You know your stuff just keep going. Hard I know but every day and lesson is a new one and has potential to be awesome.

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