30 September 2015

Your dog will never learn anything that way.


Banksy goes to her first USDAA trial this Saturday. Observe her alter ego, couch potato extraordinaire.

I'm a little nervous. I don't think she'll be, though.

We've borrowed a measuring thingie so she can do loads of measuring practice, her agility's looking great, we are Ready!

I enrolled her in a Level 2 Obedience class with a local dog training club. The class meets nearby, is at a good time for my life, and I used to teach agility for their club. And it was cheap. I figured how could I go wrong? Get her in a small space with a lot of dogs heeling and staying and we could work on lovely on leash manners in close quarters with all kinds of dogs.

This is stuff we work on a lot and she's been doing great. Banksy now can be watching agility and not going insane. Pretty much. And has graduated to sitting in her soft crate during class. Yeah, there's a blanket on it. But still. That's been a long way. No soft crate eating as of yet and no screamy fits.

We still have a ways to go, but she's made huge improvement and I know she's on the right track.

So we showed up for the first class, held in the dog food store parking lot behind orange snow fencing. I've seen that little ring for years, every time I go buy dog food. Some big dogs on pinch collars dragging their ladies around, some little dogs trotting back and forth. A lab, a poodle, a hound, an aussie, a sheltie, a couple mutty looking dogs. Looked like a good class to me. I brought a toy and some treats in my pocket, and we warmed up on the edges, doing our thing. I put her in a harness because I had some concerns about the other dogs looking a little out of control, especially a couple young dogs with a bit of a wild look in their eye. And one with a very tiny older lady. I know that look. I wanted to be able to get Banksy out of any sticky situations quickly if big wild dogs got too much in her grill and freaked her out.

So I brought her in on a lovely heel, took my place on the end of the line, and had her relax in a down.

She showed exemplary, patient, relaxing behavior. Which was good because we started class with a long lecture.

The teacher told us she'd been training dogs since the 1970's and the thing wrong with dog training today is the same thing wrong with kid training. No boundaries and all this positive reinforcement crap doesn't work.

She looked right at me and talked about about all the border collies she'd trained and on about her obedience titles and sheltie breeding and her excellence in horse training. She spent a very long time telling us about her expertness. Apparently Santa Cruz is a hot bed for over permissive training and she just doesn't stand for that. Did you ever hear of a thing called Leash Breaking? Not enough dogs are leash broke around these parts.

Our teacher was queen of the dog trainers! She'd been doing it the longest, and doing it the best. This seemed pretty cool, even if she trained different than me, probably she had skills I could learn. She said she rewarded her dog with a toy. Awesome!

She did seem like she was in a bit of a cranky mood. Actually, a huge cranky mood. She was kind of a barker. I thought she kept giving me a stink eye. But probably I was just being paranoid. She couldn't have been talking about me in the positive training diatribe, because even though I was rewarding Banksy's good behavior, she had some of the loveliest resting behavior in the group. Every so often I'd let her break her down with a couple little tricks, a teensy tug, then a release and back into her down.

Wouldn't you love to have that from your agility students?

I gave her scritchies. I let her relax. Banksy was all good. This is thrilling to me, that Banksy can behave like this in a big group class of dogs.

Then our teacher went on about pinch collar fitting and at the very least using a martingale style collar, and how harnesses and haltis were just awful, no dogs could learn in those. A good, tight pinch collar, fitted right up on the top of their neck by their ears, that's how a dog could learn. And of course with a shock collar for off leash work for dogs that just don't listen.

I had a feeling this was maybe not going to be a good fit. The red flag of Ruh Roh sounded in my brain. But I was trying to be open minded. There are so many things about training dogs that I don't know yet. And really. I just wanted Banksy trotting around and relaxing in a group dog class. How bad could it be?

After about 20 minutes of lecturing, we started the heeling. Banksy demonstrated nothing but beautiful dog show heeling, ignoring the other dogs, me pivoting around when someone in front of us got stuck or pulled by their dogs, with Banksy in what I thought was a lovely heel and sit position.

She never put a foot wrong, or any kind of stink eye on another dog. Banksy loves this stuff. She prances around like she's in a parade and stares up at me and waves her crazy tail like a big fluffy flag.

HOWEVER. I wasn't doing it right because I didn't pop her leash to move her forward. She moves on a verbal release. Um, right? I had no idea people got their dogs to move forward by yanking them?

The teacher showed us how to do this, and I nodded. But I didn't try it, because, WTF? Pop the leash to make them go?

Also to stop them. In heel position, Banksy automatically stops in a sit and looks up at me. This seems like a useful feature for agility and we practice it all the time. I watch Denise Fenzi videos and try to make it look like that. Banksy loves this stuff. OK, yeah, it doesn't work at sheep herding. I'm the first to admit we have a long ways to go. And would we ever do genuine dog show obedience? I dunno. Probably not. I just like agility. And dogs that are easy to walk on leashes.

For walking around in a parking lot, though? Fantastic.

HOWEVER, WRONG!

Also to keep them at your leg. Pop that leash. Hello, circle work? You know how much circle work Banksy's done since she was a teensy puppy? It's hardwired at this point. Banksy stays right there by my knee on either side when we do stuff like this.

So. I will admit I didn't follow directions. Story of my life. Sometimes I do try, but in this class, they didn't seem to pertain to me so I wasn't gonna follow them.

Finally, she stopped the class and asked me to remove my harness. Banksy was also wearing a loose flat collar that I could have put the leash on, but I wasn't convinced the other dogs were under control and I wanted to keep my harness in case I needed a speedy retreat. This wasn't something they wrote on the registration form or anything, no harnesses or haltis, she announced it during the lecture.

"I'd prefer to just keep my harness on." I said it nicely, no big deal, just this thing I prefer.

The teacher stared me right in the eye and said, "I don't allow those in my class. Your dog will never learn anything in a harness. If you won't remove it, please leave and ask them for a refund."

The money taking ladies were sitting at a table next to the ring.

So I apologized to the teacher and left. With Banksy in a beautiful focused heel position, weaving through the other dogs. The money ladies handed me my cash, no questions asked.

Yeah. Just like that, I got kicked out of dog training class. For my dog behaving too good. I think I may have been demonstrating that positive training actually has good results. Or maybe I'm just a no rule following bad student. Whichever it is, we're out.

To be fair, I don't allow pinch collars when I teach agility class. There are a lot of good reasons not to wear those, your dog catching it on equipment and pinching itself being one. And the fact that you can't yank a dog around an agility class. Students are usually stoked to get them off, and I try to nicely explain the benefits of teaching your dog without one.

Different ways of training.

But there it is. We've been kicked out of our first dog training class. I'm glad Silvia and Nancy let me be in theirs. This is a little embarrassing, but actually, not really. Now I know what goes on in that little orange snow fencing ring in the corner of the parking lot, and next time I go buy dog food, I won't wonder anymore.

It's just not my thing.

14 comments:

Jenn said...

Good for you. Good for Banksy.

Sounds like you got a wonderful hour of proofing what she knows, FOR FREE!

Stupid archaic chimp for a trainer can't take being shown otherwise. And 'I don't allow harnesses in my class' is classic. I've had to tell people we don't allow SHOCK COLLARS in our agility classes. She would have loved those folks.


Good luck with your journey. You sound like you will find a better path!

Agility Foot said...

I liked the parade part!

Anonymous said...

sounds like you and banksy had a great training session. too bad about all the bad vibes though.
congratulations on your ejection! :)

team small dog said...

Definitely a weird way to get a free dog training practice, that's for sure...

Anonymous said...

We did time in the orange snow fence. I used to secretly slide treats down my leg to reward when I thought the rate of reinforcement was too low. I also used to fake "correcting" which was fooling no one and prompted many directed class announcements. However a different Local Club instructor, in a different class once caught me slipping cookies to F which prompted a "you can giiiiiive cookies in my class!!" announcement. So know that there is a range of philosophies within the Local Club.

Someday ask me how the puppies were taught to lie down...
H+F

Terry A said...

AAAAAGGGG!! makes me want to rant and scream and pull out my hair. banksy is so obviously a lovely, eager to learn, sweet girl. i am sorry that poor, sad horrible woman gets satisfaction from abusing dogs, but very proud that you left during the first class.

we have a local trainer like that. friend took her first dog, a lovely little rescue about 8 months to class and called me after in tears. her dog was excited and bouncing around the first class. sometimes would let out a bark. instructor told friend to bring the dog up and give his leash to her. every time he barked she would smack his face. he cringed and struggled to get away, but still couldn't help barking. i suggested she contact club and ask for money back and never, never go near the place again.

team small dog said...

Good to know, H, that all the trainers aren't like her for that club!

The way I first started agility with Ruby was after eventually dropping out of the dog class held in a different, long gone, pet food store where the (very elderly, popular and legendary in these parts) teacher wanted to grab Ruby's leash and jerk her into a down. Ruby was completely feral, didn't know how to live in houses, ride in cars, or eat out of bowls. I needed a lot of help training her, but I didn't think that method was going to help her. So I just stayed far away from the teacher during classes and taught Ruby to lay down with the catfood the teacher provided in a big bucket. The teacher did have a big blue tunnel and that was Ruby's favorite thing in class, and this, that, and the other, we ended up in an agility class and never looked back.

Anne Popper said...

Similar experience with Mr. B, my second dog training at the Local Club and first Bred For Agility dog. Went thru Puppy Class, all positive, got to Level 1 Obedience- doing the class for socialization NOT for competition. Chose teacher A because I knew him, great positive reputation, totally anti-pinch, prong, spray water in the face (a favored method to stop barking, don't get me started on that one!). Who shows up night one? Teacher Z, a notorious pro prong, dogs must be beaten into submission teacher. She proceeds to hand out loaner prong collars to all of us with the explanation "Necrotic studies have been done...." and trails off. Never finishes the sentence, expects us to take that at face value and slap the torture device onto our dogs. I say, politely "I prefer not to wait until my dog is DEAD to find out that this is harmful to him" and hand it back to her, ask when teacher A is coming back then get up and leave, open mouthed teacher Z and the rest of the class in my wake. Like you I do NOT allow pinch, prong, shock or even harsh words in my agility class and if I can't set the example by getting the basic behaviors from my dog then I'm not the trainer I need to start over at positive square one!

Ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ali said...

You are a wonderful trainer and have done a superb job with Banksy! I did obedience competitions a long while back and ran into a trainer like this. She tried to fit my first dog with a pinch collar the first lesson. I left politely after and never looked back! Positive training is where its at! Find an obedience class that mirrors your training values!

Channan said...

WTF? Now I want to sign up for that class so I can smite her.

team small dog said...

Now in hindsight, I am so glad I got kicked out. Can you imagine sitting through 8 weeks of that?

Holly, you need to tell me how they taught the dogs to lie down. I am guessing it was how good old Legendary Dog Trainer of Santa Cruz tried to teach Ruby...grab and yank til they are down?

Maybe someday we unleash an army of students to take her class and see what she thinks of all our positively trained obedience skills!

Amis said...

ERMAGHERD. I love it. That's a badge of honor.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great to have all your friends show up at her next class with well behaved, heeling dogs in harnesses. Then they could all leave after they refuse to remove the harnesses! :-)

Lori :-)