Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's that time of year

4-H training classes start up again in a few weeks and oh the joy of inconsiderate dog owners. Now many of the kids are respectful of others, then there are those that constantly need reinforcement. The joys of being a trainer, I guess.

I love the know it alls out there with their “years” of training experience. You get it in every class, every time you run into the pet store or walk onto a show site. That person who knows it all and can tell you exactly what is wrong with your dog without question. Placing a label on a dog without being a responsible person and asking the appropriate quesitons to figure out why it does what it does, is in all accounts a mark of one of the worst trainers out there. The know it alls. We have all meet them, have all known one.

I started training under someone who refused to change her methods, every dog can be trained one way, which is my way. It was also termed that if it didn’t work then the dog was beyond hope and the owner was useless. Needless to say I stopped training there. So I ended up being mentored by a couple of trainers who really were there for the dog. They gave me useful advice, made me realize there is no one right way, but you have to adapt your methods to each dog and each owner. I went from training as a method trainer, to a being an adaptable trainer, willing to use what ever worked best for the dog and that was best for the dog. There is no dog that isn't trainable, you just have to know what makes them tick. Yes that even includes Eddie, he's not dumb, he's s l o w and drives the short bus. Poor poor Eddie.

One of my 4-H kid's was all bent out of shape because I talked about not tolerating aggresive dogs in my training classes. Seems someone labeled her dog aggressive in another training facility, when in fact, after asking about the situtation, it turned out that the dog had been provoked, had been a rescue and had baggage that caused it to be a reactive dog not an aggressive dog. We've worked through it and amazingly, it's one of the best dogs in the classes now. Once again, shame on that trainer for not being willing to work with a dog and having little more then a passing concern for the situation.

What is the difference between an aggressive dog and a reactive dog? A dog usually displays aggression based on confidence, while a reactive dog displays actions based in fear. Aggression is a natural response, and occurs in many circumstances, including territorial protection, resource guarding, and protection of pups. While a reactive dog 'can' be aggressive, he will only likely do so if placed in a situation where he feels that there is no escape.

Too many people want to label a dog aggressive without finding out the why or the when for the action. Shame on you, but then again, these are problem people who still work the old school notion that a dog has to submit to it's master rather then work with it. Kind of like the old Monk's thing of rolling a puppy over till it's submitting, which could take lots of time if it's a strong willed or underconfident pup. Ruined many a good dog in my opinion. I have run into my fare share of aggressive dogs. A certain St Bernard comes to mind. I've also run into way too many reactive dogs, including my own breed. People unwilling to work with them and those dogs end up dead, in horrible situations and punished for crimes that they didn't have a choice in committing.

Unfortunately, and I will be honest about this and you can go back to Kim and Russ' blog for more information, Russ is a reactive dog. He never used to be, but at a couple important developmental markers in his young life, he's been attacked by some nasty dogs. A reactive dog he became and we are still trying to figure out what situations make him tick and what make him tock. It also means that he has had some bad experiences with a few people. I am amazed every time when a dog can find that one person who spooked him once and every time they walk near, enter the room, they react. Any dog can become a reactive dog, shame too. And as much as we try to protect our dogs, there are times that shit just happens.

There are lost of good websites out there and lots of great trainers who work with these types of dogs. I know Sarah and Kim have had some conversations and do their best to make each time out with the dogs, a good one. Syd has made huge leaps in her training and it shows in her confidence level. Russ is getting there too. It's a shame when others feel the need to label a dog to serve their own good. I trusted people who I once thought had a good understanding of dogs and what made them the way they are. I thank God that I saw the light, so to speak. Sad though, I've seen them ruin a few good dogs in the process. Heck, I'm still cleaning up the pieces on one of those dogs.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's important to not jump to conclusions. Labeling-human or canine. is hurtful. LIke my post before-if you just ask I will tell. Dogs are the same way, we just need to ask and LISTEN to find out what the answer is. Take some time to be a good human and ask your dog what makes him or her tick. It'll make you a much better person and your dog a great dog in the process.

Later gators....

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