A few weeks ago, I ran into a woman doing outdoors obedience classes, and was intrigued – I wanted to do a fall training course of some sort. I got her card, her website seemed decent, and speaking with her, she seemed sane/stable/nice. I also liked the idea of doing treat-free training.
In her words: “My training style teaches your dog to want to listen to you, not just to get a treat”.
It sounded like it had potential. So much so that, when I saw that she had been trained under Brad Pattison, I was a bit wary, but still curious. The number of people who strongly dislike this guy and his training methods … well, there are a lot!
However, she offered the option of participating (dog and all) in one class, so I went for it. I can almost hear the horrified gasps of a number of people whose dog training I respect so much. Just… wait. Read the rest.
Things I liked :
- outdoors – It’s great that Gwynn will sit/stay for a long time in a gym with other dogs in it… but I rarely find myself in a gymnasium anymore.
- Action – there was a lot of running around and changing directions and generally trying to get your dog excited about paying attention to you.
- No-talk-rule – The trainer had a ‘no talking’ rule for the first three or four classes. I like the idea of that because I think it helps to get your dog to pay more attention to the words you do say, and for you to pay more attention to his body-language.
- Martingale collar – Correct me if this seems wrong (seriously, please do leave comments about this – I’m considering getting one of these), but here’s the explanation she gave me: The collar puts pressure all around the dogs neck, instead of just at the point they’re pulling towards. It then loosens as soon as the dog isn’t pulling, to a point that is looser than you’d be able to leave a regular collar without worrying about it falling off. And he definitely pulled less/for less time when he tried to go towards the other dogs when I wasn’t walking towards them. Thoughts, opinions? I think it might help with Gwynn’s freak-out-and-go-apeshit reaction to seeing cats. If it were a quicker all-around pressure on his neck, maybe he’d let-up on his lunging/craziness a bit faster after spotting a cat. More on cats in another post.
Things I didn’t like:
- Martingale collar – the purpose to which she used the collars, rather than the collar itself. It was used to force them into positions. Gwynn knows hand-signals. So, when she called for a sit or a down, I used the hand-signal. But the other people in the class were doing as she instructed, and pulling up on the lead (and thereby tightening the collar) or down on it to make the dog do things. The trainer wanted us to be entirely in control of the timing of obedience, and (so it seemed) to take the decision to ‘be obedient’ away from the dog. This doesn’t make sense to me at all.
- Yelling – the ‘stop’ command : the purpose is to train your dog to ‘stop’ on command, like, say, if he were running towards the street, and you yell ‘stop’, and he stops. The way she trained it: get your dog in a sit, encourage them to come towards you, and then yell, loudly, ‘STOP!’, while your arms go forward and stop them by blocking their forehead from going forward. Well, I tried it. Once. And Gwynn looked at me like I’d grown a snake-head out of my forehead and grown horns. It wasn’t all yelling for the class (or even half-yelling… it was just one exercise), but it was too much yelling for my pretty-timid dog.
I liked some aspects of the training – and plan to kind of incorporate them in my day-to-day training/walking the dog. But, overall, I think there were too many things about the class that made me uncomfortable. Plus side of this adventure, now the trainer knows there are coyotes in that park, so it isn’t the best idea to hold a class that ends after dusk. Did I mention that lesson was in one of my main parks? I don’t go there after dark because of the coyotes and the creepers. Mostly the creepers, to be honest. They are super creepy.
Instead of hopping into the Patti-wagon, I signed up for a ‘Foundation work for Dog sport’ class with the same company as I took a class in the summer. They’re going to show us things from a variety of dog sports, including agility, and do some trick-training/shaping type obedience. One class in, it’s great. I think the trainer will be able to help me a lot with using the clicker, rewarding at the right moment, and generally improving Gwynn’s obedience without the class being entirely about obedience training. It’s basically exactly what I wanted, and I’m totally psyched!