Dog training classes –
we only want you if your dog is trained!
My first memories of dog training classes were about seventeen years ago. “Yank and spank”, as the terminology goes now, but even then, most places were the same. The results achieved by people with their dogs were less that good, all I observed were bored dogs, conditioned to behave in a certain environment and then drag their owners to the car after the thirty minutes lesson of walking in circles yanking dogs about in a failing bid to get them to walk by our side. If this couldn’t be achieved the handler was deemed useless or the dog written off as a ‘rogue’. The handler’s moves were executed with military precision, about turn, left turn, right-
I would like to think things have changed a bit; some of these places remain, but on the whole we have moved forward, haven’t we?
The thing that concerns me most is the amount of people who I see for behavioural problems with their dogs, who have been to dog training classes already. Some of these were made to feel responsible for their dogs aberrant behaviour, some were ridiculed, some were barred and some weren’t let through the doors in the first place!
In my view, all of that is wrong and quite outrageous. I’m not saying that hobbyist clubs should take on all dogs no matter what, but there is such a thing as referring to others. To say that a dog is not suitable to come to that training environment with the level of knowledge that the instructors have to manage the dog is fine, but it is so not fine to dump people with nowhere else to go. Good trainers always refer to someone who can and will help.
I have dog training courses, and I like to do things a bit differently.
Our courses start once a month and last for eight weeks duration (sixteen hours of intensive training) with ten dogs per two or three instructors being the upper limit that we take. At any one time on our course, should you wish to come and visit, you can find; at least three dogs that are aggressive to people, at least four dogs that are aggressive to dogs, some that are aggressive to dogs and people and sometimes, only sometimes, we have normal tempered dogs.
Why do we have so many dogs with behavioural problems?
A) Because that is the work that I do and
B) No one else in our area will take them.
Do I call them “growl classes” NO! I call them dog training classes. All dogs need an education – those with a few problems more so. I have two other instructors/trainers working with me both of whom are experienced handlers with difficult and/or aggressive dogs. When you have dogs in a class with serious problems, extra safety procedures need to be in place, but what we do try to do is build confidence in owners and their canine pals. If people get things wrong (which we all do now and again!), we don’t mind, we don’t shout, we don’t ridicule, we just get on with it, laugh along with them and have some fun along the way.
The biggest failing in my view of the more traditional schools was not explaining to owners anything.
The delegates on our courses are issued with a large brochure on week one detailing all of the training methods, what we will cover each week, a picture of the instructors, information about them and their contact details and last but not least – information about how dogs learn. They also get issued with their Kennel Club Bronze test sheets and their responsibility and care leaflet long with the ‘Canine code’
Dogs are very location/situation based in their learning and so it is not sufficient to come to training once a week and condition your dog to behave in the village hall, it is practice the whole time – every day, in the house, the park, the street, on the tube, through the market, wherever you take your dog – that is where to practice. We hand out training schedules every week to be completed by the delegates and advise on the locations in which to train on each week of the course.
Dogs always tell the truth about whether people have put the effort in or not!
Fortunately, this is last chance saloon for most people who attend, so they really work hard…and therefore the instructors will too. We go out to parks and streets with our delegates, even take a car ride or jump on the tube with them. They practice in the environments that they need control. Its no use at all just teaching a dog to walk to heel in the village hall, London’s busy parks are the best place – the joggers, the horses, the other dogs, the cyclists, the cafes, the ducks, the drunks, the pedestrians, the overflowing litter bins, the half eaten kebabs, the ‘grande’ cappuccino cups on the floor – that’s the distractions real life holds and that’s when we need a recall because that’s the environment that we live in!
Stay training is another example – what I call stay training is when a dog will do a down stay with other dogs trying to sniff their bum, or a horse going past, or even a kid with an ice cream. In a hall with no distractions is not much of a test. I meet so many people that wish to demonstrate their dogs obedience abilities – perfect test ‘C’ heelwork, test ‘B’ scent and an ‘A’ recall. All nice to watch, all good for the person and dog – can they do it with distractions in the park, in real life – not on your nelly!
I’d rather see some mediocre, sensible heelwork, with the dog walking on a loose lead that the dog can achieve through a car-
boot sale or village fete and in the training location than competition style obedience in one location only.
When dogs with behavioural problems come into dog training environments, of course, this alters slightly normal flow. However, one must remember, people who decide to work with dogs (a growing number) surely do so to help dogs and people. So, if you are looking for a training class, make sure that that’s why people are in the industry. I have no problem with competitive obedience, I love training my dogs in scent discrimination, send away’s, tracking and retrieve, but its horses for courses. Basic, real life obedience comes first – it’s funny that we call it basic obedience – it’s not that basic really: its damned hard work!
So, when you are looking for a dog training course, make sure you pick the right one.
If you want competitive obedience, make sure that you pick that; if you want general pet obedience; pick that, if you have behavioural problems with your dog – pick a course that will help! If after a few weeks there is no progress, look elsewhere!
Dog training and views of it vary immensely, all trainers hold different views and beliefs on methods and success, but you – the dog owner are the final judge and so you should be – please do not settle for something that feels wrong to you and does not help in a relatively short time – make sure you achieve what you want. Dog training classes/courses/clubs are as varied as the people who attend them – if you don’t like it, move on!
What you always need to keep in mind is that dogs, like people, learn at different speeds. When a dog has a behavioural problem, the speed in which they are able to learn is reduced in some environments.
When you seek a training class for a puppy, when your dog is most malleable – like blank canvass ready for you to teach, finding the right courses are vital at the right time. A good deal of research should be done before you obtain your puppy. A decent eight week course will set your dog up for life, the wrong course will negate many future methods and effectively ‘turn your dog off’ for training. If all people with puppies attended a sensible training course, the need for behaviour practitioners would be virtually nil.
For dog training courses, trainers can be found through the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association www.cfba.co.uk