Monday, April 25, 2005

"Double- Trouble in Obedience Class: Revised"

Tonight was Rowena's and my fourth obedience class over at a local kennel. The first three had brought up many questions and concerns for me, but I thought I was ready today to take whatever the instructor threw at me, I mean, after all, I wasn't hormonal this time!
In previous weeks, I have noticed Rowena leaving class and being less cooperative... for example when I walk her, when Chris takes her out to go to the bathroom, when I am in the agency with her, she tugs more and jumps up more... and more so with other dogs as well. She has become more vocal also, and I know these things are things she has picked up from her class. The instructor there says that that is not how dogs learn. She says that they learn from repitition. (Gail had told me a story the week before about how a Border Collie used to learn everything before class by watching everyone before her.) The class is full of under- socialized, hyper beginner dogs who are allowed to bark and jump and pull and snap at other dogs in class. These are things that we worked for six weeks to get Rowena to stop doing when we took classes with Gail at Cotton Hill. We will no doubt have to return there to get Rowena under control again.
Rowena cannot concentrate because all the other dogs are so excited that she seems to get distracted. The instructor says that if Rowena really knew the commands that she would do them regardless of the chaos in the room. She will tell me one minute I don't have to use treats, and then later reprimending me because I am not using them enough... and then again when Rowena jumps up during a heeling exercise because I am using the treats the same way the instructor had with Rowena the week before... and Ro was leaping up for the treats at that time. She says I throw too many commands at her, but I am only doing so because, first of all Ro knows them. Secondly, she may be doing a behaviour that she is not supposed to be doing and I do not want her to do it in class either, third, Ro is so distracted that I have to repeat a command several times before Ro may actually hear it and pay attention to it.
I spoke to her after class the other night because I have gotten to the point to where I am afraid to do anything in fear that it is the wrong thing. She says that I am too hard on Rowena and should lighten up... she's only a puppy after all. I'm thinking that she needs to encourage the other owners to be more firm with there dogs... and that she should be a little less tolerant of chaos. Anyway, I left the class that night in tears, feeling like a failure and a bad parent. Should I return to this place if I leave in tears and with an anxiety attack?
I spoke with the head dog trainer on the phone today. No doubt this guy's heard about me. He gave me a bad first impression of himself almost immediately when I mentioned that Ro was training for and acting as a service dog. He says that I should not call her a service dog until she is certified because she will give certified service dogs a bad name. What nerve!! First of all, there is NO certification for all service dogs and one is not necessary (says ADA). Secondly, Rowena is a well behaved "psychiatric" service dog, accepted at hospitals and counselling agencies in the area. People love her and she loves them all. I will have to control myself regarding his service dog certification issue when I return to this kennel to attend his class, a level higher than the one we had been attending, next week. I only have to survive 2 more weeks and then I can return to Gail!! Meanwhile, I need to spend some extra time in therapy to process this whole experience further.

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