Monday, February 20, 2012

Gozer's first graduation

Gozer graduated from her obedience class yesterday! She didn't do so well in the sit-stay and down-stay commands but she did very well with other commands. I had been a bit worried that she wouldn't do so well because the Reconcile was completely out of her system for the first time at these classes. She has a lot more energy now, which might have been why she didn't do so well staying in one spot.

All of the dogs in the class graduated so we can all take the next level there. While we learned a lot ad we liked the staff, we don't plan to go back to this particular dog training centee. Our main criticism is that the staff didn't correct the dog owners when they were doing things wrong.

For example, there was a fairly young chocolate lab in the class who, like most dogs, doesn't get things right away. We were specifically told to not use the dog's name when correcting the dog but this dog's owner would grab the dog by the muzzle and say, "No! Charlotte, NO!"

We were also told to let the dog have a loose leash when teaching them to heel so that it could make the decision to heel for itself and so that it would gain the confidence in knowing that it can make good decisions and that the owner trusts it to make those decisions. This same owner had her dog on a choke chain and she held the end of the choke chain without giving it any slack. She did the same thing when sitting with the dog at the bench - she held the choke chain tight enough so that the dog couldn't lie down in front of her the way the other dogs did.

When getting the dog to sit, we're supposed to put a hand on their chest and the other on top of their bum and use both hands to put the dog into the sit position. She grabbed the skin at the base of the dog's tail and pulled that down towards the ground.

The worst thing I saw this woman do was her version of a "leash pop" to correct her dog. A leash pop is just a quick jerk on the leash and only needs to be hard enough to get the dog's attention. It isn't supposed to be used to drag the dog in another direction. This woman wound up her whole body so that she could get a lot of force in with the pop... but that force shouldn't be necessary.

I saw this woman behave this way with her dog many times, and not once did any of the staff correct her. Clearly the woman is afraid of her dog and doesn't much like her dog - she brought her kids to graduation and it was clear that the kids want the dog, not her - so in my mind she should have received extra attention from the trainers to help her become more comfortable with her dog.

I know that people do worse things to their dogs but seeing these behaviours and feeling her negativity towards the dog made me feel sad and scared for the dog. It made my heart hurt to see the owner's behaviours, and the fact that the trainers must have seen them, too - there were up to four of them there - and did nothing at all makes me wonder about the quality of the training. I think we learned a lot and I know I'm happy with Gozer's performance but I need to look somewhere else for more training.

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