Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Celeste completed her second round of training classes. She was supposed to take the CGC but my car broke down and I did not make it.

This ended up a good thing. The trainer who was supposed to run the CGC for us had her husband do it. He is a popular CGC evaluator in my county. He also believes we should jerk dogs around and dominate them. All the dogs failed.

One of my fellow classmates had taken a class with him. She has a very soft Wheaten Terrier. When I say soft, I mean the dog will die of sadness if you raise a voice to her. She went from being a "I'm kinda sad about living" to "Kill me now" after taking one of his classes. It's how she ended up in my class, which is marker-based.

She blossomed and was to the point that strangers could come up and give her cookies. She made doggy and human friends alike. Unfortunately, she was failed by her guardian who did not immediately exit the class when the CGC evaluator in question arrived. The dog regressed about sixty steps before even taking the test.

Even Henry, the most confident of Bernese Mountain Dogs, pancaked himself in the presence of this evaluator. Celeste probably would have been fine with his handling - she is pretty oblivious to aggressive people. But because of her phobia of wooden floors, she would have failed the walking part unless we had done it outside. Which is moot, there isn't any pro or con to Celeste getting a CGC. So long as she does not eat people, she's a good dog in my book. ;)

But what struck me most is what did not happen.

Several years ago I was working with one of Mina's trainers outside a store. We were helping Mina get her confidence up. When another dog approached, I took Mina to an alcove and started working on her "watch me" and "leave it". She did really well. The other dog was being dragged by a choke chain. Mina's trainer waved at me to stay where I was, and she went and talked with the woman. It seemed like a good conversation and I hoped it ended with the woman working with her dog in a way that didn't damage the dog's trust or trachea.

When I got back, I asked if the talk was good and she said yes. She went on to explain why she spoke up. Years back, she was a young trainer apprenticing with an experienced traditional dog trainer. She started to become uncomfortable with how rough the trainer was with some of the softer dogs. When a gorgeous Labrador Retriever puppy was brought in, the woman complaining the dog - 6-mos-old - jumped a lot, she watched in horror as the trainer taught the woman to knee the dog and pinch the dog's toes until the dog screamed.

It was an a-ha moment. She was holding onto the leash of her very own snarky Lab who she had taught to stop jumping by simply ignoring her and asking for a sit. Physical methods with her dog would have resulted in a swift bite (the dog was a known biter. By the time I met her, she was a real darling). More than that, she couldn't imagine violating that trust. So she spoke up. She was petrified and had no canned reason for why she disagreed with the method, just that it was wrong and mean and spiteful. And she was fired.

Being silent identifies you with the oppressor. Remaining quiet is easy. Sometimes it is justified if your well-being or that of others is in jeopardy. It's frightening in a profound way to disagree with someone, especially a person of "authority" and in a public setting where you're not sure others will come to your defense, chide you or stay quiet.

I get that on a very deep level.

What I do not get is that my trainer and another positive-based trainer present remained silent. They did not do justice to their students, human and canine. They WERE the authorities. And the handlers remained passive as well. One ripped up a piece of paper and stormed out, which is a form of protest...and I'm really thankful she did that. Sure, it was passive-aggressive, but it at least made some point. But she did not speak up when her dog was pancaked, quivering on the floor. No one should do that to any dog in a safe space.

It just reminded me that even those we are supposed to entrust with the well-being of our canine companions can be embroiled in politics and not wanting to step on toes. This was a well-respected and well-known trainer. While the other trainers bad-mouthed this traditional trainer when he wasn't present, they did nothing when he was there freaking out the dogs of paying clients.

So I'm glad Celeste and I missed that class. I do not plan on attending any more classes with this trainer, which is disappointing. I'd like to do more training with Celeste, because it gets her socialized around novel dogs, works her mind and body, and is fun 1:1 time, just me and her (Mina is stiff competition). I will just have to find another way to do that.

No comments: