Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Box o' Rocks

My goofy dog, Baci, is scheduled to take a training class on Friday evenings starting this week. I registered him for the basic class, even though he's already good at all that stuff, to try and build up his confidence by surrounding him with other, mostly younger, dogs. He's already had some unpleasant experiences with other dogs, having been attacked by another dog at our home about a month ago, and also in his last class, which let in too many shelter-adoptees who were completely unsocialized and all growled whenever another dog came near. Having had dogs all my life, I feel that a dog who is afraid of other animals is a danger to itself and others, so I really want him to have some positive experiences pronto.

I was looking forward to starting this class until I got a call from the trainer this afternoon. Petsmart won't allow me to use his pin collar in class. The brochure said nothing about restrictions, and PS sells that style of collar. His last class (at a private place) was the same way. I'm really frustrated that I can't equip my dog in the way I know he needs to be equipped. He's 88lbs, but only just turned a year old, and as a lab his puppyhood won't end for another six months so he's VERY boisterous. I've tried flat collars, gentle leaders (which he ingeniously has figured out how to get out of every time - all he has to do is yawn, which stretches out the part that goes around his muzzle, and then yank his head back quickly while closing his mouth -that leaves him with only the slim neck collar on, and that's completely insufficient), clicker training on lead, treat training on lead, everything. Finally, after not even wanting to leave the house with him because he's so excitable after all my efforts, I went out and got a pin collar (or pinch collar, they're sometimes called), which is what I'm trained all my other dogs on. Within five minutes, he was like, 'OH! You meant THAT heel! Pardon me!', and in the past two weeks he's been everywhere, including pick up Patrick at prek where other little kids were crawling all over him, and been calm as could be.

Apparently, the whole dog training theology has shifted in the past few years since I've had a new dog to train, and these collars are now considered mean. My thought is, some kids need some forms of discipline, and other kids need a firmer hand, and it's the same with dogs. Baci has a huge neck with a lot of loose skin, so I can't even tighten a flat collar on him without bunching it all up, whereas the pin collar is loose on him and his many folds until he really pulls in any direction. Obviously, I know that these types of collars can be misused, but they were invented for a reason, and that reason is a 90lb lab puppy who WANTS THAT BIRD ACROSS THE STREET. NOW. I've never had a dog so much as whimper with one of these, primarily because they're self-correcting - dog pulls, collar tightens, dog stops. Generally, the first time they pull hard is the last time, and ever afterwards the collar sits loose on their necks. With my other labs, I've been able to stop using it once they've firmly entered mental adulthood at around three years, and just gone to the plain slip-on style without the prongs.

So, now I'm annoyed that I have to go to this class underarmed to cope with my boisterous baby. Hopefully all the other dogs will be friendly, and he'll get the idea that it's a good thing to see other dogs and not a scary one. Maybe there will be a miracle and he'll have seen the light as far as pulling goes, but somehow I doubt it. When it comes to focusing outside the house, he's definitely a box of rocks mentally. The one good thing is that she said he can wear it, but his leash can't be attached to it, so maybe the weight of having it on will be enough to remind him that just because he's out somewhere exciting there's still no reason to drag mommy like a sled down the aisles of Petsmart.

OK, let the hate mail regarding pin collars begin *covering head with blanket*.


Swistle said...

HA HA! I laughed again and again, reading this. I love his change of heart when he gets the new collar. And he's such a genius getting out of the other kind!

I think that if the store objects to that kind of collar, they shouldn't sell it. It's not right of them to be all reeking disapproval about it AFTER they've profited from it.

Laurie Luck, CPDT said...

Have you tried an Easy Walk Harness? They are *terrific* and the dog can't get out if it if it's fitted properly (as with any other collar, it's the fit that's critical).

When you used the Gentle Leader, even if the nose loop came off, the collar that's around the neck up by the ears should have stayed on... That's the beauty of the GL - even if the nose loop comes off, the neck collar is still on.

desperate housewife said...

I totally sympathize with you here- big dogs are so hard to control, especially if you're not very strong yourself (ahem, me.) Our collie/shepherd mix is about seventy five pounds, and he is seven years old and can still easily get away from me if he wants to.

fairydogmother said...

I just found your blog today via Swistle. We have similar issues with our dog, a 60-ish pound hyperactive mystery mix. We use a Good Dog Collar with him, and have seen similar success as you described with your pinch collar. We actually bought it at our dog training class from the trainer, so maybe you could use that kind of collar during your classes?

Also, I had to laugh at your description of the Gentle Leader escape trick because ours has done the same thing every single time. And he has figured out a doggie version of the limp toddler trick with the Easy Walk Harness too.

I might have to look into a pinch collar for a little extra control on our ventures out and about.

Astarte said...

They definitely wouldn't let me use the Good Dog collar, it's too much like a pinch collar. I've never seen one of those before, but after looking at your link, it's the same idea. Dog class is really, really rough without it. It's been two classes now (I'm woefully late replying here), and it's almost impossible to get his attention away from the other animals. Sigh.