Twinsane’s Weblog

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Dog Training confusion

Posted by --- on Thursday 6 November, 2008

I came back from the club last night and broke down. I felt so confused. I felt as if the trainer kept contradicting what we were doing or what she was telling me to do or that I’m really incapable of learning. She made me feel like it was really simple and I couldn’t do it. I watched her show me what to do and thought it looked easy. I tried to do it and got it wrong. I really didn’t get what she wanted me to do and if I didn’t understand it, how was I supposed to teach Lexie? I think I’d get it right and she’d tell me I was wrong. She told me several times I’d missed Lexie looking at me which I didn’t realise I was waiting for and also, Lexie was behind me so how did I know she was looking at me?

We were doing heelwork for ages and there seemed no pattern so I kept getting it wrong. Sometimes if Lexie went in front I had to lure her back into position, sometimes I’d just treat her for looking at my hand, sometimes I’d try to let her come back to position on her own. At one point I thought I understood. I had to lure her in to position, wait till she looked at my hand, say my “yes” (which is what i’m trying to get into the habit of using) then treat, then keep doing that as she looked at my hand, once she’d done it a few times, I was to take a step forward, stop “yes” and treat. She’d tell me I wasn’t doing it right though as my hand was too low or too close. Very occasionally she said I’d done it right (two or three times in about an hour and a half ) Then she’d say nothing so I’d try to do the same again but then she told me I was rushing Lexie if I did a step and then she’d make me walk 6?! I was so confused. I kept apologising and saying I was sorry but I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I was getting more frustrated. She said at one time that I’d go out of the building hating her and when I said that I wouldn’t hate her she said she wasn’t doing her job?! At another time when she’d told me I’d got it wrong again and I’d asked her to tell me exactly what she wanted me to do again as I must have been misunderstanding what she meant and she said something about having to draw me a map…

My confidence was on the floor. Lexie was constanlty distracted and kept spotting the other dogs doing ringwork and starting to bark at them. We were half a stadium away but the trainer told me every time she barked to say nothing and walk in the opposite direction, in the end I was against the wall!

I’d explained to her when we went in that I needed to concentrate on Lexie’s behaviour. I explained that she’s started to bark at people too now and was still barking and raising her hackles  at other dogs which she’d done since the day I bought her home. I told her that she’d  also been bitten a couple of days ago by a dog that was supposed to be friendly (I’d checked first). I explained that if I took her in to a crowd she was ok but if I was walking down the street and she spotted one or two people she would start to bark at them and that she always barked at other dogs even those I wasn’t aware of such as those that were behind fences etc. I also said that if we got really close to people and the person came up to her or said “ahh” or something similar then Lexie would be fine and wag her tail. I said I couldn’t tell what her reaction was but I didn’t think it was aggression. I told her that I was fairly sure it was a mix of fear or play but as I am not an expert with dog or pup behaviour, I don’t know what I’m looking for. I said that her hackles are up but again, if the dog approaches slowly, she will wag her tail but be ready to run away. Lexie was being stroked by her at the time and she just said that it didn’t look to her like she had a problem. It’s like she doesn’t believe me.

Of course she had no choice when she was barking at other dogs hence the walking off routine. I’d explained that I’d been told not to make a big deal of her barking and not to walk away because I’d teach her that it was something to worry about and also I can’t spend my life walking in the opposite direction of any dog we see. She asked who’d told me about not walking away. I said I’d read it and that when I went to the other club, someone there had said it too. She said she wanted a name and when I said I didn’t know names she wanted a description! She said that we weren’t in the process of teaching Lexie to fear the other dog but breaking eye contact and teaching her that if she doesn’t play nice, she gets a time out. I sort of see that but if she’s being fearful am I making it worse?

Lexie was getting really fed up at this point. She hardly responded and the trainer said that she had to learn that she was to look at me of her own free will and that if she did she would be rewarded which would teach her to alwys want to look to me. As it was and we spent a long time waiting for her to finish digging etc waiting for her to look at us. When she did, she’d get distracted before we had time to treat her and she’d start barking so I had to walk off. I’m no good with judging distances in terms of feet or metres but these dogs were a long way away; no where near close enough to cause a problem. It’s an indoor equestrian centre, we were one end, the other dogs were the other!

Towards the end, when almost everyone else had gone, a lady walked towards our end of the ring and Lexie started to bark at her. It was the first time the trainer saw it and she did a fair amount of “hmm”ing. I was turning Lexie away as instructed but then she started being sick and lots of it! We filled two pooper scooper bags! Then she was barking at the lady again. The trainer said we needed to approach people and  asked me to walk towards a man standing at the opposite end of the centre. We had to walk past the ring where there was a dog so of course Lexie rased her hackles and barked. The lady training her dog was quite put out and asked me to take my puppy away. I was walking outside the ring, on the pathway next to the trainer doing what I was told. There was nowhere really for me to go!  Lexie keptbarking and I just kept turning her away etc. I didn’t know what I should be doing for the best. The trainer was talking to someone now and I also thought we were supposed to be getting Lexie used to people because by now we’d reached the man and in between barking, she was being stroked by  him. Between them, they agreed mostly that she wasn’t aggressive but she was unsure about things so was semi-warning things to stay away.

Someone suggested I go and take her in to the bar area so that she can see other people and dogs. That wasnt so good either. A dog bounced at her and she shot off trying to get under the tables. The trainer said to play with her to tun it a good experience which worked for a short while. Then she got focused on the other dogs and was too nervous. She kept barking and I was walking her away. She was trying to get around the corner out of the way anyway. At one point the trainer said thatI wasn’t observing my dog and that I should have seen that my dog was out of her depth and worried. To behonest I was relying on the trainer and following her (and the other trainers present) instruction and guidance.  When I asked her how I can tell if my dog is worred and what do I look for she just said that I should be able to tell her facial expression. I thought dogs communicated more with body language than expressions and as I keep repeating – I don’t know what I’m looking for, thats why I’m going to her for lessons! I then tried playing with Lexie again and when she wasn’t interested I pointed it out to the trainer who then seemed to change opinion  again and said, what did I expect when she is probably teething and her mouth is sore and that I shouldn’t be playing the tuggy game; this is the game that she suggested and even told me the week before what toy to get and make sure I bring to this session!

She made us walk past the other dog to leave (which I thought was odd as she’d been telling me to make Lexie avoid them by walking in the opposite direction all night?!) and Lexie seemed terrified to me. SHe went under the table and I had to drag her – literally – past it. When we got close to the car she made a run for it and was jumping up the back door to get in. She hates the car so thats an indication of how stressed must she have felt. I dont think I said goodbye to the trainer. Lexie got in, shot into a corner and started vomitting again. Thats where she stayed. I was upset all the way home and I had problems getting Lexie out when I got home. She then went under the table in the kitchen and wouldnt come out at all for me or DFS. She seems ok today but she is quiet.

It was terrible and I’m not going back.

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