Failure to Man-Up


I clearly lack protective instincts.  I am no momma bear.

We’re having issues issue at Dog Class.  Yes – the dog class we love, the dog-sport class.  But we’re having an issue.  And that issues name is Rex.

One of the things the instructors in this class say regularly is that, when you’re doing training, you should be entirely focused on your dog.  If you aren’t, you’re likely to miss a reward-worthy effort on the part of the dog.  And timing of rewards is key.  Great lesson.  And I’m following it, both in class and in the real world, which is great, but also relates to our issue.

Rex has issues of the dog-aggressive kind.  I don’t know if it’s just when on leash, if it’s a didn’t-get-early-socialized thing (that’s my guess…), or if he got bitten as a puppy.  I don’t get the impression that he’s a rescue or the product of a puppy-mill.  I don’t know why he’s like this, but I DON’T BLAME HIS BREED.  Gwynn’s favourite neighbourhood buddy is a German Shepherd that’s got about 50 lbs on Rex. 

The first class, he freaked out.  He burst out in loud barking every few minutes, the entire class.  He lunged on his leash, he cried, he kept trying to get to the other dogs.  This set all the other dogs on edge.

First class:  One by one, we’re testing our stay command and our recalls (come command).  Great, this is something Gwynn can do.  Unless, of course, there is a dog going ape$%*# right near him.  In which case, his response to me putting him in a sit and saying “Wait” and walking away is, “Wait for me!”

Second class… same thing.  Rex hasn’t recovered from the barking frenzy, and if any dog gets within about a 10 foot radius of him, or the wind goes the wrong way, he freaks out.  We are asked to do the same stay-recall thing, and Gwynn and I have been practicing all week at various distances in various locations.  We’re on the opposite side of the line of dogs from Rex.  But Rex freaks out as soon as I start to walk away from Gwynn… Hey boss, wait up!  Don’t leave me here! 

Rex is also lunging and snapping at dogs (mostly Gwynn, I know not why) if he is walked past too close to them.  Rex is moved by the instructor into the far corner of the room for when we all spread out along the walls of the room to practice our own thing.  He gets to go in the supply cupboard whenever he starts freaking out. They’re really working on getting him to focus on his owner, and really encouraging her to practice that a lot at home.

Third class: Half the class is walking around the room practicing Heel Position, the other half (my half) is practicing the “It’s Yer Choice” game.  Gwynn and I are on the floor up against the wall, while I add treats to the piles on the ground around him, he ignores them, and then he gets a treat.  I’m entirely focused on him, because I have to treat-reward him any time he looks away from the treats, and I have to be ready to prevent him from getting any of the treats from the floor piles.  And then Rex is there, growling and snapping at Gwynn’s face (right next to my face, not that this is the most important part.  But, speaking of teeth… have you ever seen all of a German Shepherd’s teeth at once?  I don’t recommend it.), having wrenched himself away from his owner long enough to make a beeline for Gwynn.  Owner gets him back under kind-of-control and takes him to the closet to calm down.  I try to find something to entertain Gwynn in a play-type way, to distract him from cowering behind me.

... out of nowhere

The instructor ‘reminds’ everyone that they have to pay attention to Rex, because he has some issues.  I question how I’m meant to pay attention to him and my own work with Gwynn.

He tries to get Gwynn again when we’re practicing on the small teeter totter thing, and his owner is, bafflingly, walking him down right near it, going away from her closet-corner and towards… nothing in particular.  Apparently she just felt the urge to meander.

Instructor reminds everyone to pay lots of attention to Rex.  I seriously question how I’m supposed to keep track of him, when his owner likes wandering aimlessly while waiting for her turn on the other equipment.

Most recent class: half the class is practicing dogs walking across a ladder on the floor.  The other half (my half) is taking turns running through the tunnel.  Yay, Gwynn loves the tunnel, he’s doing awesome.  Except that Rex’ owner apparently felt that this would be a good time for Rex to walk through the ladder without her holding on to the leash(?), so Rex felt the urge to meet Gwynn just as he was coming out of the tunnel.  Darting around me to get there, and trying to savage Gwynn’s face when he arrives dragging his leash.

Awesome.

And now Gwynn pauses at the mouth of the tunnel every time, before cautiously turtle-poking his head out.  I would, too, if sometimes the tunnel leads to terror and teeth.  Especially full in the knowledge that the boss can’t protect him.

It’d be like getting in the swimming pool when nine times out of ten, it’s fine, but that 10th time, there’s a hungry shark that you don’t see until you’re in the middle of jumping in.

Later in the class, the instructor tells me that I’ll get a lot better responsiveness from Gwynn if I am really enthusiastic/happy during practicing, and intersperse with play time.  Too bad that my dog can read my body-language, and isn’t focusing on the training because I’m on super-duper-hyper-alert, because my dog nearly got a chunk ripped out of him by a dog that is still in the damn class.  No, I’m really not this wooden most of the time, it’s just that a dog just ruined (hopefully temporarily) the tunnel for Gwynn, and took about 10 years off my life, having proven that I can’t protect my dog.  It’s either ‘be wooden and appear to have no connection with my dog’ or ‘sob hysterically on the floor’.

In summary:

I really like this class.  The instructors are starting to piss me off with their failure to handle the Rex issue  effectively.  He and his owner should be uninvited.  They have full reason to tell her that this is not the appropriate class for a dog-aggressive dog.

I don’t blame German Shepherds – I blame the owner of this particular German Shepherd.  Though I had never noticed before just how much more wolf-like they are than Gwynn is.  That face-to-jaws encounter, with the big shoulders and black face and deep growls… scared the crap out of me.

I don’t think Rex should die (except for the few minutes right after he attacks Gwynn, and at that point, I want to snap his neck and use his pelt as a doggy bed.), but I also don’t think Rex should be in a class where dogs are going all over the place, and dogs sometimes are off-leash, especially not with a ditzy owner who apparently can’t keep a strong hold on the leash.  Does she really think he’s got a chance at participating in dog-sports right now?  There are DOGS around for all of the sports.  Maybe more obedience focused classes where he can learn how to interact with dogs in a more structured environment.

I have no spine.  What should have happened after this Monday’s incident, and after I’d run Gwynn through the tunnel a few more times trying to get him over his spookedness:

Me: “Get him out of here.  And give me a refund.”

Instructors: “… um, but… you should have paid more attention to Rex?”

Me: “HIM.  OUT.  MONEY REFUND!  NOW!”

make the mean dog leave my dog alone, or i'll cry on you!

What would have happened midway through any argument along these lines:  Me crying in rage and upsetness and fright and ‘omg confrontation, waaaah’.  Like I said, I have no spine, and I am a coward.  But at the first sign of anything next class, screw it – I’ll tear a strip off them, while crying and hyperventilating and snotting all over the place.  And if it doesn’t prove effective, I’ll unleash my Momma-Grizzly mom on them.

Also, a few of the other people in the class have asked if Gwynn’s fixed.  One – he is fixed.  He is entirely ball-less.  ‘Dominance and alpha behaviour’ isn’t the issue either.  And Two – that’s like trying to figure out why an abused child deserved the beating. My dog isn’t the one running across the room to snarl and snap and growl and try to bite.  It isn’t his balls that are the problem, whether they’re present or not.

Sorry for the long, long rant.  If you all have any solutions or suggestions, please do leave a comment.  Also, do you think I’m reasonable in thinking this isn’t the right class for Rex?  The entire scenario stresses me out.  Three days later and I’m still halfway to tears (the rage-ey kind.  Dammit, I hate how non-confrontational I am) just writing about it.

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13 Comments

  1. Like, like, like!

    First of all – hilarious. Funny through the frustration!

    Second, while I’m sure there’s a little Devil’s Advocate voice in there saying “think about Rex’s owner, her frustration, and what she’s trying to work though” at first, by the time I got to the end, I say screw it.

    Rex clearly should not be doing anything off leash in that class, and the fact that he did is a huge signal of the lack of his owner’s awareness. Sure, props to her to a certain extent for powering through and trying to socialize Rex and give him good experiences in dog class. But leash dropping? In the class? With Rex? Bad decision making. Very bad. Chalk that up to human tendency to go too-far-too-fast.

    The instructors are also deserving of some blame. If they don’t want to remove Rex from the class (noting that you’re probably not the only one suffering from his presence), they should call in extra staffing support.

    Should everyone keep an eye on him? Sure. But the other students have keeping eyes on their own dogs as the top priority. Who is most responsible for watching Rex? #1: Rex’s owner. #2: the instructors. If they need constant supervision and support, put a staff member on Rex Duty (heh…doodie) for the remainder of the classes. And they should have his owner under strict, on-leash rules and observing Rex’s personal space. For now. As he improves, maybe he gets more chances.

    But it is your second last paragraph that has me the most fired up! We didn’t get Moses fixed until he was 2 1/2 (he had a short-lived, unsuccessful career as a show dog). And nearly every time a dog – most often a male dog, fixed or not – took a personal dislike to Moses for no clear reason, everyone was very quick to jump to the conclusion that it was because he was still with balls. Followed up by “why don’t you just get him fixed?” He is neutered now, but I wish I was armed with your assessment back then.

    Good luck on your forthcoming confrontation! Let us know how it goes.

    • To the devils advocate within you – I completely understand that Rex needs to be around dogs to get through his dog issues. I think A class is a great idea. I just think that it ought to be a more structured class, where it is easier for everyone to be completely aware of where they are and where the other dogs are. A class where the dogs are all over the place, sometimes off-leash and doing things that cause them to enter each others’ bubble of space (and in Rex’s case, the 10 ft radius around him)… that isn’t the class to use to teach your dog how to behave around other dogs. And Rex’ owner fails at keeping hold of the leash when he lunges. He’s a big dog, and she’s a small woman… and when he goes after Gwynn, he usually snaps towards him with enough force that he has a leash on, but no owner attached to it by the time he gets to Gwynn. I think she needs to find a different class (this company offers plenty – they could een switch to the earlier class on the same night of the week… the obedience class) to work on his issues in.

      And the instructors – yeah, they are trying, but in spite of their efforts, he continues to find his way to gwynn… and they’ve given Rex’s owner and Rex enough chances, and now they need to tell them to leave. Because all this is doing is prodcing one slightly less reactive dog, and one dog so cowed at the sight of Rex that he can’t focus on anything but trying to keep me between him and Rex.

      I absolutely believe that balls (or lack thereof) have NOTHING to do with aggression. Let alone attracting aggression. Poor Moses, getting blamed for attracting the bad behaviour of other dogs and then getting blamed for it. That’s just the aggressive dog owners’ way of explaining away their own dogs’ behaviour.

  2. TheIdiotSpeaketh

     /  October 20, 2011

    If you need someone (or multiple people) to “dissapear”…or have “unfortunate accidents”….. I know some people, who know some people, who know some people from New Jersey……if you know what I mean…… 🙂 Keep that in mind if you want to avoid your confrontation….. otherwise….. good luck 🙂

    • 😀 Oh, Idiot – do these people you know happen to wear pinstripe suits, and carry instrument cases (despite possibly being tone-deaf… not that you’d ever tell him that to his face) around… and refer to ‘yous guys’? They sound swell! I’m not sure who I would want to have an unfortunate accident, though… it’s a series of unfortunate people , and I feel like the trail might eventually lead back to me… thanks, though! 🙂

  3. O_O That made me laugh and frown through most of it 😐
    Thankfully next class should go better as I will be there with you to keep an eye on rex and keep his mouth away from fur and face 😀
    Yay I’m a comin home!

  4. Also, by Gwynn’s hiding behind you, it should be clear that he’s lacking balls.
    “What? Another dog is picking fights with your dog? Must be because you are a bad owner and didn’t get him fixed… tsk tsk tsk”
    I also think that people see that odd pinecone tuft of hair that grew over the spot where his balls once were contributes to these issues…
    His fake balls are too believable! Shave it 😀 I’m sure THAT’ll be easy 😉
    P.s. to other people reading this comment, I was there at the buying and through the ball chopping all the way up to a month or so ago. I’m not a crazy dog stalker who stares at doggy butts and notices things like pinecone tufts 😐

  5. I don’t know about the class, although it sounds like Rex needs some extra attention and maybe a different type of class.

    I do know that when I have confrontations like this I almost always wind up crying too. Then I’m mad at myself. Grrr….

    • It is so frustrating to find yourself crying when you’re just SO angry. That’s what happens to me. it’s like, i can’t contain all the rage, so it lets the unhappy leak out to keep the rage. But then the rage is soggy and kind of pathetic, hard to take seriously.

  6. I would cry too, mostly because I am upset and frustrated. BTW, I am upset that you are having to deal with this and your instructors don’t seem to be taking their responsibility seriously.

    When we started having aggressive dogs (and dog fights) in our training class I stopped taking the dogs. Period. No dog or irresponsible owner is going to ruin my dog; the only one ruining MY dog is ME. 🙂

    I would have a conversation with the trainer before the next class and advise that you are not comfortable with the G-Rex issue and ask if they have a plan for how to handle him should he come after your dog. If they are unwilling to work with you, I would ask for a refund and report them to the better business bureau.

    We had a Malamute (BIG) dog attacked by a pit bull, now the Malamute hesitates near the area where the attack happened. 😦 You don’t want that for Gwynn.

    My other suggestion is I know some people who know some people. (Less complicated then what the idiot above offered. ) 🙂

    • I think the instructors are uncomfortable with the idea of actually telling her to leave, unfortunately. They are just trying to manage the issue, but i don’t think it can be reasonably managed in this type of class.

      talking to them before the class (possibly by email, to avoid the issue of me crying at them, lol) is definitely a good idea. that way, they know that i’m not just going to sit back and take it.

      There are an awful lot of you, it seems (two doens’t seem like a lot… but it is) who seem to have mob-like connections. Just to be clear – I ain’t seen nuthin, coppa! I ain’t no rat! … just to establish me on the ‘not to be whacked’ list 😛

  7. Well, I don’t have advice for handling Rex. Really, it is not your job to “handle” someone else’s dog. It’s the OWNER”S responsibility to make sure he acts appropriately. Besides the fact that the instructors should suggest that REX, at a minimum, switch to another class because he clearly has issue with dogs in this one, if I was Rex’s owner I would remove him from this class on my own and put him in an “aggressive” or “reactive” dog class until I we can learn his triggers and get his behavior under control.

    As a last resort, if I were you I would ask the instructor for a refund or for a credit so you can come back and complete a class that Rex isn’t in. That get’s the point across but only takes half a spine 🙂

    I forgot if I mentioned but I moved my blog and made some changes so if you were subscribed to my RSS feed to you will have to remove the one you have and add the new one from our home page. Now that we are done with the major changes we also hope to be able to stop by more often.

    • I didn’t know that there were aggressive/reactive dog classes – though now that you mention it, it makes sense. How better to handle dogs with that type of issue than to make sure all the owners are very aware of the other dogs in the class.
      I hadn’t realised you guys had moved – I’ve just subscribed via email… since I’m not really sure what the whole RSS feed thing is about. Computers are far too complicated! The new site looks very sharp – looking forward to browsing through it 🙂

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