November 10, 2015

In Which I Manage To Not Get Arrested For Assault

Dog training extraordinaire, I am not. Heck, my 1 1/2 year old Boykin just recently stopped peeing in the house. I do not keep up with the latest training theories or ideas and have no clue what all commands I probably should have taught my dogs by now.
But they all know come, sit, stay.  They can all stay in the yard without a fence or leash and not bother anyone. They can all be taken for a hike without a leash and come back when called. They don't growl at people or dogs. They don't jump on people (well, anymore..Einstein just got over that too) and will take a full body tackle from a toddler without pause. I think they function just fine in society.

Einstein has been really, really rough on the leash though. While the other two could walk with a loose leash and not pull, get stepped on or otherwise be a nuisance, Einstein rushes at the end and leaps, pulls your arm out and does every other bad leash behavior possible. We have tried everything I could think of: the make him sit and calm down each time method, the turn around and walk the opposite direction method, the who gives a crap let him pull until he passes out method. None worked. This is compounded by two facts: 1) He has a wimpy trachea that will collapse with the slightest pressure causing him to go into severe coughing fits and 2) He has separation anxiety and if he feels like he is falling behind, even though he is attached to a human on the leash, he will freak out and do all he can to catch up even if it means pulling to the point of pain. Yep, he is a tricky one.

There is a local dog training facility that also has doggie day care and a few months ago we started to take Einstein one day a week to help him get his wiggles out and enjoy life out of his crate. He comes home tired, happy and smelling good and I have had no complaints what so ever, so when they posted a clinic on loose leash walking I was all game and signed us up.

The clinic was last Saturday from 2-3:30pm and cost $25. It was led by their top dog trainer and I was really excited to learn some tools to work with. Now, I knew going into it that my choice of a harness would be questioned. A flat collar and a choke chain were definitely out given his medical issue, but I was hoping a good trainer would listen to that and work within my reality and not some hard and fast rule she learned once upon a time.

There were 6 other dogs in the clinic: a 4 month old Great Dane puppy already larger than Einstein, two older mutts, an extremely dog aggressive pitt bull (I am not trashing the breed here, I love pitts, but this guy was vicious), and two middle aged German Shepherds. All showed up in a flat collar, except us with the harness and the pitt who wore both a large prong collar and a choke chain with a special leash that attached to both.

The super trainer showed up 10 minutes late and spent the next 5 complaining about the humidity. Not a good start, but I settled my irritation and got ready to learn. We all introduced ourselves, our dogs and gave a brief counting of the issues we were having while on lead: pulling, crossing in front, lagging behind etc...

Knowing my choice of harness would be questioned, I opened with the fact that any stimulation to his neck causes a massive coughing fit which was adding to our issues. She openly rolled her eyes and scoffed at me. It was rude and I felt my self control start to slip. It was 20 minutes into the class.

Next, we were all asked to individually walk our dogs around the room to show how we corrected and such. That was the first time I got to work with Einstein and it lasted for a 1 minute circuit around the room.

Once we all had a chance to show our stuff, she went into talking mode. I listened intently hoping to grasp at some straws of wisdom. Her talk lasted one minute and went something like this:

"All dogs need a prong collar. It doesn't matter their demeanor, personality or training level. "

The end. Um???

Ok...full disclosure: I HATE prong collars. Dusty has seen some pretty nasty things over the years from those. I know it is a training tool. I know it is much like using a stronger bit or the like in horses. I know in some cases they are needed. But for everyone? No matter the situation? No matter the dog?? You call yourself a trainer??

She handed out prong collars to everyone (even the poor 4 month old puppy until the owner looked appalled so she switched it to a choke chain.) and I raised my hand.

"What about those gentle leaders? I have had good luck with them in the past."

"He isn't a horse. So no." Eye roll again.

Ahhh...ok...cue resting bitch face now.

Super trainer then walked over and grabbed each dog in turn to show the remarkable difference the prong collar made and how she could turn your leash ambivalent pooch into a loose walking machine.

When it was Einstein's turn she took the leash without making eye contact with me and proceeded to pop him in the neck with the leash to cue "walk". Without even giving him a chance to respond first. Without even giving him a chance to get used to the new collar on his neck.

He responded by thrashing about and screaming blood curdling murder at the top of his lungs. She laughed and pointed to me saying that it was my fault he wasn't used to a collar around his neck. I saw red.

She "walked", and I use that term loosely, him around the room popping him forcefully in the neck each time he even thought about stopping or going forward until she created a panic ridden, shaking, anxious dog who wasn't learning anything. he was reacting to the pain she was inflicting and by the end of a two minute circuit he was at her heels, tongue lolling about, eyes popping out of his head.

She looked around the room triumphantly and declared him cured of his leash walking misdemeanors. I asked what would happen if she removed the prong collar and walked hi around on his harness. If he was cured of all his leash woes he should then be able to walk next to her heel without the pain inflicting metal contraption. She handed him back and moved on without acknowledging me.

Yeah, you are a great trainer.

This was repeated with each poor dog in the room and then she declared everyone trained.

The last 30 minutes, instead of us working on our dog handling skills, she talked about the collars some more, the fact that they should be left on all day to be used to correct any bad behavior immediately and oh - please sign up for my other classes.

When she tried to make me pay for the collar, it took all my will power to place it on the ground instead of throwing it in her face. I did roll my eyes though. That was fun.

I apologized to Einstein for this torture session, debated on asking for my money back and then watched as all the dogs slunk back to their cars no better trained, but now fearful of ever going on a walk again.

Once home, I did my best to erase the memory of the afternoon and took Einstein and Bones out for a walk in the neighborhood with Dusty and Wyatt. Einstein was nervous and shaking to begin with, but soon relaxed and enjoyed life again. I will be trying a gentle leader on him in the near future.


  1. I like the Halti ( rather than the Gentle Leader for a couple of reasons. 1) The Halti hangs loose around the dog's muzzle when they are not pulling. The Gentle Leader has a clasp on the part that goes around the nose and in correct use, the part should be fairly snug during use. I like the release that the Halti gives. 2) the Halti allows the dog to open it's mouth and relax it's jaw, yawn, drink, etc when it is on. The Gentle Leader does not. 3) I have had great luck using the Halti with both short and long nosed dogs. You want to make sure you fit the correct size (they can get tight under the jaw if too small) but once it is on correctly there should be no pressure on the dog's face, jaw or muzzle when there is no pressure on the leash. 4) We had issues with the Gentle Leader twisting on the dog's face. I haven't had that problem with the Halti.

    I have used the Halti or something similar for years. We started with a Gentle Leader and I hated it. We moved to the Halti and never looked back. We used them on our boxers until they learned to walk off leash and be under voice command. I use it now on the Malinios-Boxer mixes because we still have not learned not to pull. It is funny how they do not pull in the Haltis, but immediately pull when the leash is attached to the collar. Eventually, I hope to be able to have them off leash, but not yet.

    I applaud your restraint in not punching that woman in the face. What at fucking nightmare. And I would complain to the company you paid your money to. Was the woman making money from the sale of the collars?

  2. And you should have pointed out to that idiot woman that you have worked dogs and horses and they are remarkably similar, actually! Gah! I want to punch her for you.

    1. It was terrible. I can't remember the reason why, and it was 15 years ago when my Corgi was a pup, but the trainer we took puppy classes from hated the Halti and was very pro Gentle Leader. She was probably a Gentle Leader Rep.

      Einstein is fantastic off leash, but unfortunately we live about 45 minutes away from any place we can let him off, so during the week he is on leash for his after work walks. When she made the horse comment I wanted to say "actually, my 900lb mare does quite well in a halter and never pulls at all." Instead I just glared at her and made her uncomfortable enough to avid my gaze the rest of the class.

  3. Jesus. H. Christ. What a nightmare! I was seeing red just reading your post, Sara! That trainer needs to be put out of business.

    I'll chime in with Dusty: most of us in the veterinary community HATE prong collars. The only exception where I'm okay with one being used is with a large rescue dog with deeply ingrained aggression issues: I've met many that could only be stopped by a prong collar. And they were just that: dogs with questionable backgrounds that had been adopted as adults. (I could go on into the subject of how behaviorists, who could truly help curb ingrained dog aggression, are severely underused by pet owners, but that's a whole other subject...) My one other pet peeve are the Easy Walker harnesses (, with the leash clip in front of the chest. I HATE those and have yet to encounter a dog wearing one that has been adjusted correctly so that it is effective. When dealing with a large, unruly dog that wants to yank you down a hallway back to their owner, these harnesses are utterly useless.

    As for the Halti vs Gentle Leader: I have personal experience with neither (because cats, and when I owned dogs neither one of these options existed yet) but most of my coworkers that use head collars on their dogs have Gentle Leaders. I haven't encountered dogs with Gentle Leaders having difficulty opening their mouths/panting/yawning though. My supervisor's dog wears a Gentle Leader whenever he's on leash and he's able to do all of these things. Granted, all of the dogs I've seen Gentle Leaders on were long-nosed dogs. So I'm sure it's like with horse halters: some brands and styles fit some head types better than others. I do love the concept of head collars for dogs, whether the Halti or Gentle Leader, and have only heard good feedback about them from other veterinary professionals that use them. :)

    1. At the very end the guy who owned the two mutts asked if she could give him help with an issues. His big dog hated his feet being touched and would growl and snap. He asked for ways to slowly improve this. She looked around the room with a grin that said "Watch this everyone, I'm super trainer" and squatted in front of the dog putting her face eye level. She then grabbed his front paw and screamed as she jumped back near seconds from getting her face ripped off.

      She was angry and ran off to the back room to grab a metal cage muzzle which she threw on the dog and said "This is what your dog needs".

      That was it. No more training. She really needs to be fired.

  4. This is appalling. 'Every dog needs to wear a prong collar at all times'? Holy crap, this makes my head hurt...And she's their head trainer?

    1. Unfortunately she is. We love the day care, but will never go back for a class and she lost all recommendations from Dusty to his clients.

  5. That is just so many levels of wrong. That lady needs the prong collar put around her neck and yanked...repeatedly.

    I would love to know if you do find something that works well for Einstein, though...sounds almost identical to what I'm dealing with in walking Artemis. I'm probably the Worst Dog Owner ever in that I've not done a very good job of turning her into a good canine citizen on the leash, especially with other dogs. Pull, lunge, bark, twirl, the works. Sensitive trachea, so pulling = hack, choke, gag, cough. Prefer harnesses, but she *really* likes to pull against them, and she hated the head collar (Gentle Leader). So I will definitely be interested in any solutions that end up working for you and Einstein.

    1. If I come up with anything I will let you know. So far, nothing has worked. Those sensitive trachea dogs are really tricky.

  6. Gentle Leader helped with Zephyr, although he would try to rub it off. He could open his mouth etc. no problem, he just disliked it. Halti might or might not have been better.

    I kind of wish you'd walked out the minute you were handed a prong collar. I suspect you wish you had too. Poor Einstein :(

    1. Yeah...I was wishing Dusty had come along because he would have had a lot to say to her. Hero was trained with the Gentle Leader and he would try to pull it off as well, but eventually learned to tolerate it and then to not pull with a regular collar on.

    2. Treats seem to be magic with Weiser (who's the polar opposite of Zephyr regarding food).


      PS - Weiser's theft of 3 dozen ginger spice cookies a month or so ago doesn't seem to have cured his "I'll eat anything" attitude.

  7. Holy crap! I would have said F that and immediately left the class and asked for my money back. When the heck did she learn dog training, during the Spanish Inquisition? Poor Einstein.
    If he's food motivated you could use the "bring a ton of little treats" method of keeping his attention or clicker training if you're more coordinated than I am. :)

  8. The Mr. just said he would have said "'I'm not putting that crap on my dog, F U." Yeah, he's good like that. :)
    Glad you weren't arrested for prong collaring the "trainer".

    1. The hubby had wanted me to and I really should have. I think I just wanted to see what she would do. It wasn't worth it.

  9. I HATE prong collars. Hate. Without exception.

    Poor Einstein. He's SUCH a sweetie. I would have punched her. OMG.

    1. I was so very, very close to doing just that.