Rage Against The Machine

7th May 2015

I speak of the rage against what dog training is becoming; a machine. I only know of this title as a band that my son used to listen too, but always found the name of the band intriguing.

I often times hear a client tell me their dog flunked basic obedience…Really? I would suggest that your trainer failed you and your dog. After all, why are we really in a training class? Do you plan to attend Westminster? Are you going to the Nationals with your dog? Probably not.

When I teach a class with eight dogs we have one goal uppermost in our minds. Is your dog safe? Does your dog bite humans or attack other dogs? No? Hooray you and your dog graduate basic obedience.

If a trainer fails a dog in class the likelihood that that person will attend another class is about 0%. And now we have an at risk dog because their human has probably not learned how to manage their dog when they are scared, stressed or over threshold. Most people that flunked class have never even heard those terms, they only know their dog could not hold a down stay beside the dog that was eyeballing them. Would you lie down on the floor with a dog that was eyeballing you? The expectations that we place on so many dogs in the name of training is out of proportion with what the dog is capable of in many instances.

I recently had a long term client tell me the best thing that she had done… She went to the local buzz trainer, I am using the term buzz as it is not a shock at all just a little buzz that gets their attention. “It doesn’t hurt at all” so I am told. Anyhow, she was very proud that her dog could heal, go to place and sit every time. She then told me, the dog still goes nuts and acts aggressive every time someone enters the home. Hence the rage.

I am an opinionated bitch (yes I said it) and oftentimes cannot hold my tongue and get myself into trouble. I am oftentimes not well liked. I realize that, but I have no control when it comes to dogs that are put at risk because we cannot take the time to get to the underlying issue of behavior and choose to look for a quick fix.

There are days my heart hurts so much I want to sell the business and move to the beach. Then a Charlie shows up in class. Charlie never sat, rarely looked at his human when asked and pretty much looked like he was doing whatever he wanted. I saw a dog that was terrified of other dogs and none too sure of the human race either. Okay Charlie, you can just hang out for the next four weeks and we will take care of you. Guess what? At the end of the four weeks, Charlie pranced around that class like a boss. He greeted other dogs, wagged at humans and mom said he is not going crazy on walks anymore when he sees other dogs.

And so next week I will start another round of classes with eight new dogs with very different personalities and we will do what we need to do to help that dog feel a little success. He or She will receive their diploma and applause from everyone because that dog did the best they could and this Trainer would never dream of flunking him.

Karen Quillen

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