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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why Iam done...part 1

why Iam done...

Hiring trainers.


I've had three runs ins with trainers that Iam paying to advise me on my dog...I did attend a seminar, that I adored, but I don't count that..:p

Once upon a time I tried getting Emma into agility. I was confident I could train the whole shebang myself, but didn't want to spend the money on the equipement. Mostly, more than anything I wanted to connect with other "dog people" in the real world, and also a dog trainer, because at that point in my life, I idolized most dog trainers, and had not learned that just because they were positive dog trainers, I may not like their methods.

I could not get into a class due to my sched, so I did the next best thing and hired a well known trainer, to do privates with Em and I at her facility. When I showed her list of acomplishments to people online, they were impressed and jealous that I was going to get to work with som'one so talented.

I personally, very much enjoy researching people before and after I meet them, I read this womans profile on her site, read reviews and studied her picture with her dogs, I felt like I knew her a bit, so that way i'd be more comfortable.

As the day aproached, I was increasingly nervous. I felt more like I was going to be meeting a celebrity than a dog trainer. So then I meet the woman.

She looked NOTHING like her picture, she was also alot older than I anticipated, like THIRTY years older, its not like it was a younger picture either, there was zero resemblance. The tall, thin blonde I thought I was meeting was a short, elderly woman.

Nevertheless I still was polite and told her I was EXTREMELY nervous, so to pardon me. She seemed friendly, but not overly impressed with me or my dog. Just a casual, "Hi lets go back here"

Then it starts, Iam a mental mess and my perfect dog says, "screw this jazz, moms nutty" and all the intense focus is gone. She begins to pull and wander and not bother to check in with me, then it happens.

The flies.

God must hate me, but he bestowed Emmas sworn enemies on us that day. The only thing this ball obsessed dog is more obsessed over, is flies.

The trainer then asks me to run Em through all her behaviors. I struggle to get her attention and I run her quickly through about 4-5 tricks, she does them for me, but immediately goes back to obsessing over the bugs. Iam so nervous at this point, you'd think I was being attacked by a bear.

the trainer acts unamused and says pretty much nothing, she then takes us to the field were she tells me to run Em over these raised planks on the ground (like mini jumps) she gives no instructions really, just do it and reward when you are done.

So I run her over them, she tries to excape briefly and then Iam told in a simplistic monotone voice what I did wrong, and to do it again. So I try to do it again, ommitting my mistakes only to be told again what I did not do right, no tips or hints on HOW not to do those things, just don't do that.

after about three tries and three failures, she takes us out to this tire jump and we take turns calling Em back and forth through it. At about the fifth time through she finally gets a bit of personality and exclaims "oh wow! Shes so operant" which, is dog training slang for a dog that readily OFFERS behaviors. I remember making a face and thinking "no shes not... Are you high?" Em is the least operant dog I know...and calling her back and forth and slapping our hands to prompt her was hardly anything like a dog that offered a tire jump with no promps/cues. I took it as a compliment but wondered how the trainer could get this wrong.

then she decided that we should learn front crosses and rear crosses. I kinda wonder why she had us try so many things in that first fifteen mins, I think she was trying to find som'thing I could function at, as I was still so nervous I was dropping things, stumbling over words and had lost my dogs attention. She kept talking to me in the slow, monotonous, simplistic lingo you use on a 3 year old that you just caught doin' som'thing bad. This did not help, because now I was positive she thought I was a moron.

I could not do the crosses to save my life...you have to run in a huge half circle, watch your dog, click at the right moment, and then throw your reward in the right spot....all this coupled with the fact it was 90 degs that day and the field was small and littered with agility equipement that I was certain I was going to plow into . I could barely run a straight line, let alone do this thing she hadn't explained well. And once again, she pointed out what I did wrong and when I would do it right, she'd say "good" in a simplistic tone, like I was three and she was faking it.

She also, the entire time, kept clicking for me. Which was honestly unneccessary and, in hindsight, insulting. I could see if I was missing things, but the one thing I did maintain, was my awesome timing. I have great timing and did not see any reason for her to click ontop of my click, I wasn't missing clicks.

She then pulled us aside and explained hand targeting over the course of what seemed like 5-10 mintutes...For contrast, you can explain this to an owner and have the dog doing the behavior in under five minutes. She talked slow and simple like I was a caveman who spoke japanese.

So we go home. I feel like a tool, dog learned nothing, iam out thirty bucks.

Second session, week later. This time, Iam less nervous, more like being attacked by a raccoon than a bear. She askes about the "homework" which was the crosses, and I was honest with her, my husband was out of town for four days, it was triple digits all week, I have a full time job and a puppy under six months old, I had not worked on them. I told her this was an exceptional week and I was not a slacker, but I had worked on the other stuff.

She was irritated for a moment, then said nothing and pulled out a mat and explained we were going to train "go to your mat"

Iam at this point, begining to question the heck out of this in my mind. Why are we moving on to more and more exercises without mastering anything? Why are we not staying on the exercises long enough to have success? Why? why? why? WTF.

She then explains to me, we are going to free shape the entire behavior. That means no prompts, no cues, no help, just click the dog for steps toward the right answer.

Finally I speak up. I had told her before that Em does not free shape yet, and that she will only offer her default if not given directions. The trainer disreguarded this and insisted we free shape.

so for twenty minutes I get closer and closer to tears as my poor dog (who is focused this time) stares at me waiting for me to show her wth I want. She never gets it. She eventually gives up and walks away from me.

I tried to help her once, by pointing at the mat and the trainer instantly jumped on me, I was not to help her, and that me helping her was a PROBLEM, the reason she can't do things is I don't allow her to make decisions. This confuses the heck out of me, because first of all, Emma did not have "problems" and I think I know my dog. The only problem at this point is you not letting me help her.


We go home. I cry in the car on the way.

The next day I teach her to go to her mat. Not just that, she lays on it, stays on it, and will go to it from up to ten feet away, sit, then down and stay until released, all in under five minutes. Gee whiz, what problems this dog has :p

I email the trainer and explain what I did, and to question why it was important to her the behavior be shaped in the way she insisted. She ignored my email and instead asked if I could reschedual my next appointment. I fired her.

I guess I did learn tho. Tho the intention was for the dog to learn. Don't click for others (unless they say its ok) don't talk to people like they are vegetables, don't try and train agility in mid july, and don't decide you like som'one before you talk to them. That last one will disapoint you heavily if it doesn't pan out.








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