By Terry Jester
I’ve been getting phone calls and e-mails from people all over the country who are dog training class dropouts.
These folks want to know if their dog can be helped.
One of the first questions I ask is if the dog has had any formal training. Recently, I’ve had a slew of people saying that although they had started a class with their dog, they dropped out before finishing. Why, I asked?
Usually, the answer is that the instructor in the class has ignored the dog, its problems or the owner.
This is unacceptable. If someone pays a fee to be part of a class, the instructor has an obligation to give as much attention to the difficult dogs as they give the easy ones. Not doing so is letting the owner of the difficult dog down.
What is the owner supposed to do if the one person they have hired to help them ignores them? The owner is there for help. The dog is there because it needs to be there, perhaps, more so than others within the class.
Ignoring the difficult dog in favor of the easier ones will eventually create a very cohesive, well-behaved group of dogs because the owners of the unruly, noisy, aggressive or obstreperous dogs will simply take the hint and stop coming to class.
That’s too bad for everyone.
I love bad dogs in my classes. They give me opportunities. When teaching a class of hooligans, I get to really test the limits of the better-behaved dogs.
If they’ll do a down-stay with a hysterical, barking Chihuahua or bouncing, paws-waving boxer next to them, they will do a down-stay anywhere under any situation.
Bad dogs in class teach everyone better obedience. The other dogs in class learn to accept chaos and still behave. The owners of the good dogs give thanks that they have the dog they have, which now don’t look so bad. And the owners of the hooligans get the training, attention and support they need.
Not everyone can own a Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. Most people who sign up for a beginning dog training class have a version of Marley, the yellow lab. If they had a dog like Lassie, they wouldn’t need a dog training class.
Owners of difficult dogs need to demand equal attention. If you feel you are not getting what you paid for, go elsewhere. Don’t give up.
Terry Jester is a nationally-recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.