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.
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.
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’.
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!”
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.