Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spur: Training the Beast, Part 28

Group Class 2 – July 1

When we arrived at the facility, I put Spur’s muzzle on. Again, as much as we hate to see him in it, and as pitiful as he looks, it’s still just to make the other participants more relaxed with him, knowing they cannot get bitten if he acts up.

Sam ran the group lesson, but Courtney was also there working a private lesson with another client. When we got there it was similar to a dog park, or doggie social. A few dogs were off leash and one approached Spur. I didn’t know who the owner was so I called out, “Please get your dog! Please get your dog!” The dog was removed before any issues could pop up. But then, another dog came to greet Spur and the greeting wasn’t as nice. It didn’t last long and didn’t mar the beginning of the class. Although for a while there, Spur was sitting all by himself since everyone moved with their dogs to another area of the driveway. “Spur, you’re the one who gets to sit in the corner all by himself.”

As the class started, Spur did great with weaves, stays, comes, running comes. When they started an exercise where they rounded a circle, Spur got distracted by another dog and Doug had to pull him out of the line. The exercise then turned into “Spur-in-the-middle” and he did fine. Doug said Spur was so focused on him that he probably didn’t realize what was going on around him. I said, “That’s the entire point!” Doug was surprised; almost as if it finally dawned on him, that if there was going to be the chance of an incident, Doug needed to grab Spur’s attention and keep it. How many weeks have I been telling him this???

The class ended with a game of Place Board Tic-Tac-Toe and a group picture. Spur did not have any loud outbursts the entire class. And afterward, he got to visit with his favorite trainer, Courtney and even give kisses without his muzzle.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Personal Observation Regarding Shock Collars

Personal Observation, July 1

Oh, a few months or so ago, a friend on GooglePlus (G+) who is also a dog lover made a post on his G+ account. It said something to the effect of, “People who use shock collars on their dogs should be tazered to see how they like it. Makes me sad and pissed.” One of his friends responded, “I don’t understand it either. It’s for lazy owners who don’t want to train.” That was the only comment my friend had regarding his post. I’m sure this was not directed at me; however, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Especially since I am now one of those people he thinks should be tasered.

At the time he posted it, we were only a couple of weeks into our training with the e-collar. We were still not totally on board with the whole e-collar solution. And we hadn’t really seen much of any results by that point. However, his post made me sad and angry. Would he look down on me for putting an e-collar on my dog? What should I care? He hasn’t lived with the issues we have. He may not realize the amount of money, time and training we’ve already put into this dog, without result, and how much money, time and training we’re still putting into this dog. AND, the “shock collar” is a valid method of training for a dog with these issues. Lucky for him he had a dog that could be trained without NEEDING the additional tool called a “shock collar.” He doesn’t realize that, if not for us, looking for every solution we can find to help Spur, this precious dog may end up in a place where he may not be appreciated the way we do, nor treated as well.

Let’s just say that Doug and I were totally fed up with Spur’s antics and decided to return him to his breeder (which the breeder, as a GOOD breeder has offered to do.) I’m sure the breeder would make every effort to get Spur placed in the “right” home. But finding a “right” home for a dog that acts like ours is most likely few and far between. Doug and I have often thought the “right” home for Spur would be one out in the country, on a farm, where there are few “visitors.” Where Spur’s owner does not take him to town to meet and greet; where Spur can love and protect his flock and never have to be bothered with anyone other than his flock. Really? How many homes like that are there?

So, even if Doug were to decide to do that, we felt it was in Spur’s best interest to be civil enough toward a stranger so that that stranger would indeed take a second look at him, rather than being scared off by Spur’s aggressive-like lunging and barking. We needed to do the best we could by him before turning him over to someone else, because the next person may not be as patient and understanding. Spur may not give his heart as quickly to the next person before that next person gets fed up with him. What if…? Doug LOVES Spur, even if he realizes that maybe he’s not the right owner for Spur. Would that next owner also decide to give him up because of his antics? What about the owner after that? Where would it end?

So, Doug LOVES Spur. And Spur LOVES Doug. And even with all the work that still needs to go into Spur, I seriously doubt that Doug will return him to the breeder.

That being said, we continue trying to “help” Spur. We tried the positive reinforcement training for 8 months with little success. We tried a Cesar Millan method of jabbing him in the shoulder and “Shhhoosh-ing” him when he became out of control. When we consulted with several “behavior modification” trainers, each of them suggested the e-collar. The first trainer that told me this, well, I cried. I still get choked up when I think about what the e-collar really is. The first two trainers only wanted to tell us our risk for having a dog with his type of attitude. The third, Turk, was the only one that told us that he liked what he saw in Spur.

Back to my friend’s post. We’ve been working with the e-collar on Spur for three months now. He’s not fixed, and we have much more work to do, but I think he is better. It’s time for us to immerse him with the public. That’s going to include taking him to places with lots of people and other dogs; restaurant patios, public parks and dog parks, eventually dog sports trials like herding, agility, Frisbee and such. Spur is getting to a point where he understands much more quickly that a little tingle at level 20 (out of 100) and us calling out AAAAaaa means he needs to readjust his attitude and refocus on us. We may not be there this week, or next, but it’s coming and we’ll be there soon. And if I meet up with my friend at the dog park, he should know that I will have the e-collar on my dog; it’s for my friend’s safety as well. I just wish he could also know the road we’ve taken to get to this point; to be able to comfortably take my dog out in public, without fear.

Really, I’ll be doing it for my dog’s freedom, so he CAN go out in public, and not be hidden away on some guy’s farm or who-knows-where.