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Thread: My First class was a Nightmare!...

  1. #1
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    Default My First class was a Nightmare!...

    As some of you know, I am teaching my first basic obedience class through the local kennel club. I accepted the invitation to take charge of the course with some concerns, so luckily I asked the training coordinator to attend the course with me just in case something came up that I couldnt handle. (Plus if someone had to be dismissed, it is her call.)

    Well what do you know..... in the two years I've been at this club and attended all sorts of classes, I've never seen one. So of course she had to walk into mine....

    A clueless Rottweiler owner and her full grown female rott.

    From the minute the dog walked in the door, it was lunching at other dogs. Everyone was lined up to get registered, so I quickly steered the dog away from the door and the crowd. I immediately instructed the owner to NOT let the dog away at any cost. I observed while registration was occuring, and I stepped in several times to help the owner control/reprimand the dog.

    The rest of the dogs in the class are gems. Many of them are graduates from my puppy classes in the fall, which is great. They are already friends and the dogs are already well trained in basic commands. Of course, I had a hard time focusing on them because the Rott was barking etc. At one point, while I was helping a friendly mix, all hell broke loose by the rott. It attacked a cocker!!

    I rushed over and helped break them up. I thought for sure the cocker was injured, as it seemed the rott had a strong hold on its shoulder. The cocker was not groomed with a cut, so it was fuzzy furry. I had the cocker owner give a close exam to make sure it wasnt bleeding. It seemed okay, so the rott just got fur. The cocker owner didnt seem upset and did not insist the rott get kicked out, etc.

    After class, I had a discussion with the coordinator, and as far as no complaints came in, we will let the rott remain in the class. The dog has no issue with people--its a sweet dog with people--its just dog aggression. It's clear that the dog's problem comes from the owner's lack of discipline. This is a dog that CAN be saved if the owner is educated.

    It is tempting to kick the dog out of the class; I'm sure the others in the class would prefer it. As the instructor, I probably would like the class without having the rott always on my mind. However, our community is one of those in the middle of creating breed specific legislation. Our kennel club is actively opposing the breed specific legislation, so we're in a bit of a jam. If we say that the dog is too dangerous for the class, there's no where for it to go. We are a tiny town; we're basically it for dog training. There arent any behaviorists out there to take on a case like this. The owner would probably lock the dog in the back yard, and it would be a matter of time before an incident occurs. Plus, it would get out that the kennel club kicked out a rott from their class, rather than demonstrating that these dogs are capable of being trained.

    So I found myself at the end of the class talking to the rott owner. Instead of telling her she can't come back (which she tearfully expected), I started listing all the changes she needed to work on with her dog. I talked to her about setting rules and boundaries--taking charge of the dogs life. I had to show her how to say no to her dog as it fixated on the leaving dogs. She was tentative to be physical with her dog; all she could do was hold on. I had to show her how to be assertive with her NO! I had to show her how to watch the dog and correct it when it fixated BEFORE it got obsessed and barked.

    At one point, the rott was laying at our feet, watching the cocker it had attacked earlier as it was laying on the floor getting petted by its 7 year old owner (her mom was talking to the coordinator). The rott suddenly rose to its feet, fixated on the cocker. The little girl's face immedately registered blood curdling fear. I stepped inbetween the rott and the girl, distracting the rott. I turned to the owner of the rott and I said, " Did you see the fear on the girls face?"

    She said, "yes"

    "You are responsible for that fear" I said. "You are responsible for how your dog impacts those around it. "

    I explained to her the added responsibility a rott owner takes on simply because they have a rott. People will be afraid of a well behaved rott; If the rott barks, people will think it wants to kill them. As a responsible owner, she has to make sure that she is 100% in control of her dog so that no one has cause to be afraid.

    It was harsh and I felt bad for saying it, but it was the only thing that seemed to get through the "he just wants to play" or the "he's fine at home" excuses.

    I gave her explicit instructions to stop free-feeding so that she's in control of the dog's food. I also gave instructions that the dog is not to bark at another dog, even inside through a window, without her getting the dog under control and praising it when it calms down and gives it her attention. I spoke to her about watching it like a hawk and redirecting its attention whenever it is around another dog. I wanted to say so much more, but at the same time I knew she'd be overwhelmed.

    Of course, here I am, two hours after the class completely on edge and wired from the experience. Part of me hopes that someone complains and we have to ask the rott owner not to return. Part of me hopes that the rott owner comes back and actually makes progress. I know the dog can be saved with a knowledgeable owner; I just dont know if this owner can get it together.

    So for all of you cavvy owners who have been to class with that scary, big dog that seems out of control..... this is what the trainer goes through! There's so much more involved in this situation than just what's best for the majority, as the politics in our community are at play. It's a heck of a lot for lil' ol me to handle!! It's not what I hoped I would have when thinking about my first basic obedience class!!
    Cindy
    Cedar (tri), Willow (blen), & Holly (ruby)

  2. #2
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    Jeez Cindy...what a nightmare!! Sounds like you were right on it though and good for you in giving the owner some constructive criticism and advice.
    Cathy
    Loving mom to Jake, Shelby and Micah

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    D@mn! You're gooooood! Very impressive. Do you make house calls...to Arkansas?

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    Wow...you had a rough first class. I think you handled the situation beautifully. However as someone who brings their kids to class and is protective of Candle and Ally. I would probably not have come back to class as long as the Rott was coming. That's such a tough call.

    Is there any way she can take private lessons until she learns how to better control her dog and then come back to class. I know we had a very
    very aggressive small dog in one of our classes. The trainer set up private lesson basically to teach the owner how to handle her dog. I think it took months of work and she finally came back. Tough situation.
    Mom to Candle and Ally

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jackie
    Wow...you had a rough first class. I think you handled the situation beautifully. However as someone who brings their kids to class and is protective of Candle and Ally. I would probably not have come back to class as long as the Rott was coming. That's such a tough call.

    Is there any way she can take private lessons until she learns how to better control her dog and then come back to class. I know we had a very
    very aggressive small dog in one of our classes. The trainer set up private lesson basically to teach the owner how to handle her dog. I think it took months of work and she finally came back. Tough situation.
    Yeah, I know exactly what you mean! I wouldnt want to go back, that's for sure! Especially the cocker! Why the hell she wasnt more upset, I have no idea. Perhaps she's aware of the politics in town, and sides on the idea that even rotts deserve a chance. Who knows.

    We'll see how many complaints the coordinator gets over the week, or if anyone writes to get their money back because they dont want to return.

    As far as private lessons, that's a kicker, too. I asked the coordinator, and there isnt anyone in town who does one-on-one work. She did say that there is a kennel club member who has, in the past, volunteered to do one-on-one sessions with tough cases, but it's strickly voluntary. The coordinator said she'd ask, but there's no guarantee. I think the person who has done it is taking on a sick pup at the moment, so I'm not sure what her response will be.

    I did instruct in class that the other dogs are to stay away from the rott. There is a woman with a small dog who knows the woman with the rott. The rott has no problems with the small dog; they are friends. So I think part of the issue is unknown dogs, not just completely 100% dog aggression. So the friend was next to the rott and everyone else stayed away (except for one man with his tiny black dog who thought he could help.... he's a friend of the club and has a mastiff at home; i guess if he's willing to accept the risk that's up to him....)

    Anyway, as you can see I'm still quite upset about the whole ordeal. Personally, I'd rather not set up private session with the woman myself. I would rather focus my time on the class. Still.... between a rock and a hard place sometimes you find the best way to go. I'll see what happens between now and next week.
    Cindy
    Cedar (tri), Willow (blen), & Holly (ruby)

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    I am going to flag this question to Tara and she might PM you directly or answer here.

    But knowing them well and having attending so many of their classes, as well as much of an aggressive dog weekend seminar, I think I can probably answer for her though to some degree at least at a basic level -- and say your concerns are spot on. This dog needs to be in a special class for aggressive dogs to desensitise it gradually and safely to other dogs -- or else needs to be separated off behind a wall while at the class and trained separately, but again, this should only happen with a trainer who is experienced at dealing with aggressive dogs and their training challenges. This is NOT a basic obedience issue or a candidate for basic obedience. The dog needs experienced, specialist handling. Making a wrong training step could worsen the situation.

    The dog also needs to be muzzled if it is attacking other dogs, as a very basic starting point; and should be muzzled on walks. One attack on a dog wheile walking the rottie and the rottie may be put down. Surely the owners will want to address the issues and use the right tools such as a good quality muzzle, and not run this risk?

    Overall, it is way too overstimulated by other dogs though and shouldn;t be in a class that you are trying to run for beginning obedience -- it really needs to be handled by someone with the experience of dealing with, and training, dog-aggressive dogs. It is just too big and strong to be handled adequately by the owner going by your description, too, which puts other dogs and owners at potential risk.

    This isn't a criticism of you at all, or of the dog; it is just noting that this is specialist territory as you recognise yourself, and really needs someone that can give more than basic obedience guidance. An overexcited dog like this could attack both dogs and potentially people who might try to intervene.

    You are absolutely right to have the concerns you have but it really has nothing to do with breed bans or breed aggression. This is a badly socialised dog that has a dangerous level of aggression to other dogs and the other dogs and people in the class cannot be put at risk. That must be the bottom line. It would be ridiculous to risk other dogs and owners on the basis of a political statement! I hope the breed club witll agree with that.

    I'd advise the owner to consult a behaviouralist to start with and also see if there are any special classes for such dogs beyond your area -- they really must get the right help. Dog Training Ireland actually run special aggressive dog classes for this type of dog and both Tara and Lisa would be extremely cautious in having such a dog in a group class -- only in special, controlled circumstances.

    I would guess they might also suggest a calming cap -- a kind of hood that the doog can see through but only just, which lowers the outside stimulation level. But again, all those things are specialist training tools and approaches -- which is where this particular dog needs to be.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Leo Lily Tansy Libby (foster) Mindy (foster)
    In memory: Lucy
    Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com

  7. #7
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    Tara and Lisa have aggressive dogs use Baskerville muzzles in public; these are comfortable:

    http://www.dogtrainingireland.ie/sho...roducts_id=192

    Or a soft muzzle like the Mikki muzzle.

    Gentle Leader make this calming cap:

    http://www.dogtrainingireland.ie/sho...roducts_id=171

    This is how DTI describe their aggressive dogs class -- you can see the level of detail for working with such dogs and that it matches what you are describing in behaviour from this rottie. They are APDT certified trainers:

    Difficult Dogs Programme

    Group or class training is not suitable for dogs who display inappropriate behaviours or who suffer from stress when around other dogs and/or people.

    If your dog has bitten another person / animal or you feel your dog may bite another person / animals you should not attend a group or semi private class as this problem needs to be dealt with first.

    The difficult dogs workshop has been introduced to help dog owners deal with problem behaviours such as aggression, fear, lack of self control, inappropriate reactions to situations, anti-social behaviour and general inappropriate behaviour. A qualified trainer will assess each dog and work with them.

    The term "difficult dogs" conjures up images of badly behaved or dangerous dogs. When we refer to a "difficult dog" we simply mean a dog needing "extra help" coping with what our human world throws at them or with behaviours displayed due to a negative past or mistreatment.

    Before commencing this workshop, your dog must be seen by our vet, Finbarr Heslin, Beaufield Veterinary Clinic, Celbridge, Co Kildare. This is to ensure that your dog is in complete health and that the cause of the aggression is not medical.

    Problem behaviours can be worked on but many will require ongoing management. We will always put safety first. If we feel a dog is beyond help we will advise that he or she is humanely put to sleep. This will not be advised without a proper assessment, consultation with other behaviourists and all avenues exhausted.

    Lack of commitment will mean lack of success in this area.


    FAQ

    What equipment / techniques are used?
    We do not use flooding techniques, aversion therapy or any form of shock therapy.

    We do not allow dogs rehearse the behaviour that we want to modify. We simply promote the appropriate behaviours and aim to extinguish the unwanted behaviour. We will always work the dog to his/her own comfort level. Classical Conditioning is used to change the dogs emotional response to what causes his/her reactive behaviour.

    Equipment includes padded harnesses and collars, hoodies, dummy dogs, dummy human hands, clickers (clicker training), food and toy rewards, calming music, safe areas and Bach flower essences will be used.

    A stress free, calm and relaxed environment is provided so the dogs can work and learn.


    What happens in the workshop?
    Each group consists of a number of dog's owners and their dogs. Everyone in the group will have a dog needing extra help so you are not alone. Our aim is to create an empathetic support structure for dog owners within the group. Each dog will have varying degrees of problems.

    Each dog will be worked in the centre for a specified time period while the other dogs wait in the car. However all dog owners must be present in the centre to watch other dogs being worked. This will help you understand why dogs display these behaviours and how to interpret and handle them. You will need to crate train your dog or have a secure area in your car while your dog waits to be worked.

    Various exercises are used to slowly desensitise dogs to what is causing their reaction.


    What do I need to bring with me to the workshop?
    Your dogs favourite toys and treats.
    The dog must have a collar on with id tag attached.
    A properly fitted harness (available for purchase from the training centre).
    A secure area in your car so that you may leave your dog outside while you learn from the other dogs inside.
    Soft Mikki (or equivalent) muzzle for highly reactive dogs (available from the training centre).
    link http://www.dogtrainingireland.ie/dif..._programme.php

    Maybe print this out to discuss with the owner and the club but I'd def. not allow that dog back into a group class til they have successfully addressed the behaviour issues.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Leo Lily Tansy Libby (foster) Mindy (foster)
    In memory: Lucy
    Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com

  8. #8
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    Just one other thought: you are being put in an impossible position which is really unfair. The fact that this dog is a problem is not *your* personal responsibility and most definitely, you cannot be put in the position of placing other dogs at risk in order to accommodate a dog that needs specialist handling. Dogs that are this overstimulated -- the staring you describe is a VERY SERIOUS level of potential aggression -- simply cannot be placed in a class with other dogs even at a distance. Behind a specially constructed wall perhaps but even then -- you cannot both train a whole class of beginners and deal with this dog's serious problems while it is held behind a wall, and the kind of issues yu describe are a specialist area.

    They must, must, must get this dog to the right behaviouralist and training. Tara and Lisa train such dogs but have over two years of specialist training and certification and continuing education, behind their training apprahces to such dogs.

    Consider living with the end result of a fatal attack on someone esle's dog. And are you personally indemnified for being sued? I will bet the club may not be, and that you, unless they have made provision for you, would have total legal exposure should this dog attack a dog or person. That could be financially ruinous.

    I hope you won't let the club put you in this difficult position; they need to be taking a more responsible approach than it sounds like they are taking.
    Karlin
    Cavaliers: Jaspar Leo Lily Tansy Libby (foster) Mindy (foster)
    In memory: Lucy
    Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com

  9. #9
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    I wish we were in Ireland! I'd settle for a more populated area with more training resources. We simply dont have these types of training courses here.

    I dont have the final say on whether the dog stays or goes. That's up to the training coordinator. And while you're right, Karlin, that this dog's issues are not those designed to cover in a basic obedience class, this class is the ONLY one available to help teach owners the basics of dog ownership. A few other basic obedience classes are popping up within the last year, but they are just like us, except without the experience/resources the club offers.

    This dog is not the first aggressive dog the club has allowed into a course (though its the first aggressive rott I've seen). There have been other dogs who have had issues who have been allowed to stay, and some have really improved. Owners have also improved. In fact, there's a husky mix that has some issues who is allowed to come to the basic obedience course each time it is offered so that it is around dogs and people. The owners know what they are doing, and the club recognizes there's no where else to go.

    So I understand the logic for keeping the dog in the course. It is not a good solution, and it certainly isnt ideal. To have other resources would be wonderful, but they simply dont exist right now. I'm not sure where else this owner could go, or if she even WOULD go. We are often the one and only shot dogs get around here.

    I havent heard anything from the coordinator yet to see if anyone has complained. I know she wont see any of the other trainers until Wednesday. Perhaps they'll be a solution found then. I just have to wait and see.
    Cindy
    Cedar (tri), Willow (blen), & Holly (ruby)

  10. #10
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    We're posting at the same time.

    I discussed the legal recourses with the coordinator after the class, as I had the concerns you mention. Everyone who joins the class signs a waiver that the club and staff are not liable for any injuries, etc., that could occur.
    Cindy
    Cedar (tri), Willow (blen), & Holly (ruby)

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