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.