I’m Embarrassed To Take My Dog To Training Classes – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
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Are you embarrassed to take your dog to training classes? And what should you do about it?
Last year, I trained a Golden Retriever to become a hospital therapy dog. Now, every week, this dog goes with the owner to visit the sick and bring some happiness into that environment. Part of my advice, once the lessons were over, was to continue to challenge this dog to learn new skills. So, a few months ago, they joined a beginning group agility class. During the second or third class, their dog got excited by all the activity, and got away from the owner, running over to greet the other dogs in class. Instead of the class instructors instructing them on what they could do to prevent this kind of thing in the future, the owner was punished. They were told to go around the field (classes were held at a public park) and pick up dog poop. They felt demeaned and embarrassed. They also quit the class.
I have a new student with a shy, barking Dachshund. He can’t take the dog in public without the dog making an embarrassing scene. Last week I gave the owner a couple of lessons on how to manage the dog, and a program to help the dog overcome her insecurities so that the barking goes away. As I drove home tonight, he called me and said that while his dog is better on leash, no longer lunging at other people, the dog is still barking a lot. All of my lessons come with free follow up, so tomorrow morning, I’m going to meet with him and see what is going on. Part of the problem is that his homework will need more time to take effect. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll see that the program needs to be tweaked some to fit his needs. I understand his embarrassment at his dog being out of control. But, I’m not going to contribute to the problem by demeaning him or his dog. We’re going to work this out.
All good dog trainers and behaviorists are good teachers. A good teacher teaches.
Not all dog trainers are good teachers. Some aren’t good at teaching dogs. Some aren’t good at teaching people. Some aren’t good at teaching dogs or people. Those are the kinds of classes you don’t want to join, nor should you continue attending.
Looking back at my years in school, I did well in some classes and poorly in others. As a kid, I blamed myself for not being smart enough for the classes that I didn’t do well in. But now, as an adult, I realize the teachers failed. I came to see this lesson when I did poorly with one teacher, yet when I took the exact same class with another teacher I would often be the top performer in class. The job of a teacher is to ensure students learn the lessons, and stay motivated.
I had one teacher in high school that embarrassed me in front of the whole class… all my best friends were there, and so were kids that didn’t like me (we all knew kids like that, right?). That bothered me for years and my self confidence took a pretty hard hit. Looking back, I realize that this guy was a bully and a jerk, and I just happened to be in his crosshairs that day. It’s no wonder he had problems, as I later learned he was a drunk, beat his wife, and ended up divorced. Kids are sometimes victims of teachers. And sometimes so are dog owning students in some dog training classes. One lesson I took away from this experience was that if I realize I’m having a bad day (and who doesn’t), I might cancel classes. I might do that kind of thing once per year, but I realize my problems are my problems, and my students don’t need my bad attitude. Nor do the dogs. I’m human, and I know that good training requires me to be at my best.
That’s not to say that sometimes a public rebuke isn’t necessary for some people. I have had to confront a student for abusing his dog in class. I wasn’t going to permit that, and he was embarrassed and left the class permanently. But, that is the exception rather than the rule.
Here are my expectations with new students… I figure you are motivated but don’t know what to do. I figure that your dog is out of control and needs to start by mastering the basics. So, it is OK for you to be making mistakes. It is OK for your dog to be out of control and even be a pain to live with. We’ll just start from the beginning and work all that stuff out. I’m kind of like a doctor. I’ve seen it all. So, it is OK to make mistakes around me, and it is OK if your dog isn’t perfect. And you should allow yourself to make mistakes so you can learn from them. It is also OK for your dog to make mistakes, so both you and the dog can learn from them.
In addition, since I mostly do private lessons (I will sometimes do group classes), we can often work out some of the worst things before we go out in public for everyone to see. On the other hand, some problems can only be solved by working the dog and student around distractions. In those circumstances, it might be embarrassing at first. But, by the time we get there, you’ll know I’m on your side, and that we will get you to a better place over time. It will all work out.
If you are embarrassed, tell your trainer. Let them know how you feel. A good trainer or behaviorist will take that into account and try to make it all go smoother.
OK? Go to class now…