View Full Version : Behavior class with big dogs?

28th May 2011, 04:25 AM
Nalu went to puppy class but spent a lot of time cowering under a chair or behind me in fear of all of the big puppies. I'd like to take her to a behavior class to get socialized but I worry about her getting injured by big dogs - especially her eyes. I live in a rural area where big dogs are very common. Should I just have the trainer work with her alone?

28th May 2011, 05:13 AM
I had the same problem, the big dog puppies were just to big and scary for my pup. I was fortunate that I am a member of a cavalier group that meets once a month so we socialized there. Honestly though I don't find any issues with waiting until the cavalier puppy is a little older for puppy classes. IMO you will do more harm with placing your pup in a situation that is overwhelming for her. I would however take her to as many places as you can while she is young and let her experience different things in the world.

28th May 2011, 10:39 AM
I remember Maddie's first puppy class - she was shaking like a leaf all the way through. The next week she dragged me in, and she hasn't looked back since. She's wary of bouncy big dogs, but that is because she knows how small she is so it's self-preservation, she is happy to say hello though if they calm down.

I would suggest talking to the trainer and see if you can socialise Nalu with some well behaved adult big dogs? You don't want her to be fearful of them especially if there are lots in the area you live, but puppies can be far too clumsy and bouncy. A steady older dog who has good doggy manners would really help.

28th May 2011, 12:10 PM
It s really, really important for small dogs to meet big dogs and vice versa. Puppies do not tend to be worried about size too much -- if a pup is cowering it is a sign that the class is really important for him/her and really needs this socialisation now in puppyhood. :thmbsup:

It is also important for owners to just let their pup be and get a chance to adjust -- exactly like the shy child in kindergarten. If mom rushes in, protects the child, and tries to manage the whole process the child doesn't get confidence -- pups like people need the time to assess the situation and with each class, a pup almost definitely will grow more and more confident and soon be tumbling with the rest. Puppies play hard *as a norm* -- let the instructor determine if things are too rough (a good trainer will just split up any situation that gets too overexcited).

To be honest: most big dogs are a lot less aggressive and gentler with small dogs than small dogs can be with big dogs or with each other -- cavaliers are generally gentle and low key but most smaller breeds are far more active/yappy/aggressive (it is part of their breed personality to be so).

I have never heard of a cavalier having eye damage from playing with other dogs. Cats can be another matter. It would be sad to limit a dog's life due to worries about whether they may get hurt in normal play, so I'd just let them be. :)

30th May 2011, 06:14 PM
Nalu did graduate from puppy class last year, and unfortunately she only interacted by barking rather than playing, :(. Since then she's been around other dogs but shows no interest in them. I was imagining the upcoming behavior class could be full of large uncontrollable dangerous dogs that would hurt Nalu but I will rest those worries aside and talk with the trainer.

30th May 2011, 07:29 PM
We took Bentley to a 5-session obedience class. Basically all he learned was "sit, stay, down, leave it-take it" etc. He was so hyper each time that it was an awful ordeal for me. He tried to mount the other puppies the first couple times, I guess to prove his dominance?, could hardly be contained, got easily distracted, etc. We skipped the graduation ceremony, partly because he was definitely not ready to show any kind of proficiency in any area. We do have the hand-outs that we can use to further train him at home. We had company this past weekend and he went nuts again, just from the excitement. We have some work to do!

30th May 2011, 08:20 PM
Puppies are not trying to show dominance :) -- they are just playing. Humping behaviour is a norm of all young dog development -- they are just trying out adult behaviours they will need. It is really common for puppies to try humping new 'friends'. :lol: Lily still likes to be too friendly with throw pillows!

The whole idea of 'dominance' in dogs is hugely misguided and is really a product of long-outmoded training theories that were based on some very poor misinterpretations of wolf behaviour decades ago, Sadly, lots of dog 'pop psychology' books and TV trainers continue to spread this view, often creating more problems for dogs and owners.


It is unfortunate that the class instructor didn;t take a more hands on and helpful approach to managing a really hyper puppy and that this made you uncomfortable. But generalyl that kind of overstimulation around people or other dogs is precisely why puppies need lots and lots of daily interaction with other dogs and to meet lots and lots of people too.

Thus classes can be really good but it doesn't sound like you got much helpful advice. One approach for example is trainers will suggest a puppy like Bentley be given a LOOOONG walk before the class to work off some energy. Also -- don;t feed the dog on the day of a class as then they are far more likely to really focus on their rewards. :) And a good trainer would spend a lot of time helping a frustrated owner find ways of managing and positively training away from unwanted behaviour and helped you get to where graduation would have been fun and well-earned. That said -- puppies only have a certain amount of ability to concentrate so puppy classes are not intended to produce Crufts candidates in obedience. :)

A common mistake is that owners accidentally reward the unwanted behaviour. Hence if you start to try to get Bentley to stop jumping, call to him because he's overexcited, have lots of interactions trying to make him behave -- he is getting lots and lots of positive rewards -- your much-desired attention! -- for doing what you do not want. So the approach is to have people totally ignore him (and you too) until he calms down. If he gets trained to have a reliable sit and stay, then he can be put into a sit for meet and greet (a sitting dog is not jumping... :D).

If you haven't downloaded Ian Dunbar's free book on raising and training a puppy I'd strongly recommend it. It goes through all these things and gives great approaches for training. See www.dogstardaily.com

30th May 2011, 08:27 PM
Also: I'd always look for classes with a CPDT (or else APDT) certified trainer. Too many people set themselves up as trainers but really know almost nothing and have little ability to teach much less train. No good class or trainer would leave an owner to themselves with a dog that only barked a lot and played or where the owner looked stressed and frustrated :(. I've been through two dozen or more beginner classes now (as well as intermediate and advance, plus agility, aggressive dog management, and special seminars and events with people like Ian Dunbar as a participant or observer with my certified-trainer friends, and abandoning an owner or a dog 'pupil' like this just would not and never should happen in a proper training class.

The CPDT and APDT websites list local trainers.

31st May 2011, 01:23 AM
In all fairness, I will say that she left a message the following week asking if we wanted to reschedule the last class, but we never did. (Our own fault.) The evening we missed was an extremely rainy, stormy day anyway so there were two reasons for missing!

2nd June 2011, 07:10 PM
Here is my training story. Some agree, some think I'm stupid so take it with a grain of salt. hope it helps as I have been in a similar situation :)

My youngest Cav Sprinkles was extremely reactive around other dogs. It was my own fault since I didn't properly socialize her until 6 months of age. She was my "baby" and so I spoiled her rotten, causing multiple problems when it came to other dogs. By the time I took her to meet some friends, she was TERRIFIED of other dogs. She would react by barking and whining excessively and sometimes even nipping at other dogs. Needless to say, I was horrified!

I researched many different training facilities asap. I found the most expensive one that I will not name out of respect. It was a training facility that focused only on basic training, agility, and obedience. Our first class day came and I took my Sprink. I was prepared for the worst... and lets just say I am glad I was. They stuck us in a corner of a quiet room so that we were one on one with another trainer. She was not exposed to other distractions. She was not exposed to other dogs. We wasted 4 weeks of "training" like this. As the weeks went on she only got worse. While walking into the training facility with other people and their dogs Sprinkles was horrible. My little 6 month old 7 pound Cavalier was actually scaring people. I was confused as to why we had worked so hard with this "puppy socialization and training class" and she hadn't yet been around another dog! Their response was that she'd learn with time and age how to behave around other dogs...

We quit after 4 weeks since it obviously was not helping. One of my friends actually recommended we try the training classes at Petsmart. I refused at first. I honestly thought it was kind of ghetto. I didn't like the idea of training my dog in the middle of a store with people watching.

After a few weeks of thought I decided to give it a shot. Our trainer explained the first puppy class that there they would learn not only to get used to other dogs but also distractions of everyday life. I mean afterall, what is more distracting to a dog than petsmart noise? I wont lie. Sprinkles was HORRIBLE those first few classes. She spent the entire time barking excessively. Whenever another dog would get near her, she'd lunge at them. Our trainer knew EXACTLY how to handle this. By the 4th class or so I started to see improvement. Our trainer spent individual time with Sprinkles as well as with the whole group. We would go to petsmart to practice socialization EVERYDAY. And everyday our trainer would be there to help... she didn't HAVE to since it wasn't our class time. But she was ALWAYS there giving me tips and pointers on how to SAFELY let Sprinkles get used to other dogs.

I am proud to say that 6 months later Sprinkles is now in her 3rd week of advanced class at Petsmart and is training for her CGC. She now absolutely loves other dogs and we are looking into doing agility and therapy. She will occasionally have a reactive moment while leashed (Our trainer helped us to figure out right away that Sprinkles had reactive leash aggression) but I am now prepared to handle it and move on.

I know it's hard to socialize your dog with other dogs. My dog WAS that mean dog hahaha. But as long as you find a good trainer who you are comfortable with, one that gets to know you and you're dog, it is completely worth it. I have since started all of my Cavs in training there. I had NO idea how "untrained" they were until we met our amazing trainer.

I hope everything works out for you, and don't give up!!

2nd June 2011, 08:06 PM
When Mika first went to puppy classes, she was quivering under the chairs as well. She'd only come out when it was our turn to do something. By the end of the 6 or 7 week class, she was out from behind the chairs. Even though she was so shy, she was always excited to go.

We've continued on with that club and now do agility as well. She can hardly wait to get there. She's still not big on other dogs, but will let them approach and some she even decides are trustworthy and will approach them first (not very often). She is best friends with our neighbours dog and this is the only dog she really plays with. When they brought him home as a puppy, he harassed her until she finally learned to play, now she loves him and they play like crazy. Most other dogs in the neighbourhood are more like "acquaintances". She sniffs them and they wonder around together while the humans talk, but she doesn't play.

She just prefers humans to most other dogs. I'm really glad I didn't give up on her though after those first few classes.