Well as you might have guessed from the title we have stopped going to the Agility class! We attended a grand total of 2 classes and the 2nd class, which was on Tuesday last week, was enough to make my mind up that it was not for us. I’ll first fill yous in a bit about our positive first class experience.
At the first class we were taught how to do “round” and “twist” on the jumps which I believe is also called wrapping jumps. We also practised doing stand and waits before the jumps as we still haven’t successfully taught Bonnie a stand cue (the shame!).
After, we had a practise in the agility area which was great fun. Bonnie had never been on AstroTurf before and was already excited from all the jump practise and lots of high energy praise so she had zoomies all over, tucking her little butt in and making her grumbly noises which was hilarious. After she calmed a bit we practised going through the tunnel and doing some jump work.
The first class was loads of fun, Bonnie really enjoyed it and there wasn’t really anything that I was uncomfortable with so I was pretty excited about going to the next one. The next class started out similar in that we practised wrapping the jumps but then we started adding distance so that I could send her to the jump. Unfortunately this is where it started going downhill, I will try my best to describe what happened and stay calm but I am still a bit shook up over it and also wish that I stepped in slightly earlier – that’s what happens when I give people the benefit of the doubt!
The person who was instructing us started to demonstrate how to do the sending to the jumps better or increase drive or whatever (I am not well versed in agility training) by holding onto the collar, egging her on and then “pushing” with the collar towards the jump. At first Bonnie seemed happy enough with this as she was enthusiastic about doing the jump and all the treats and fuss she got. She seemed happy enough with me doing that but as I was not “doing it right” the person demonstrated a few more times the “correct” technique, at this point Bonnie seemed pretty tired out and was getting a bit fed up so after doing the jump she would start wandering away – which should’ve been our first hint.
The person said that because Bonnie did not come back on the first command when she wandered away (I wasn’t using a formal recall command I was just like c’mon Bonnie so wasn’t a big deal) that I should go get her and make her come back otherwise she would learn to ignore me – should’ve been our 2nd warning. So after a few more goes at the jump she just wanted to wander off more which should’ve been a sign that we should’ve taken a break but the person insisted on showing the “correct technique” several more times and once again she wandered off, the person called her and she didn’t come (why would she, she had only met you twice and you’re clearly annoying her!) so he went over and tried to bring her back to the jump.
I don’t remember exactly what happened next as I was looking down to get some treats out to do a recall, either he tried to pull her back with her collar or she jumped up and he grabbed her collar, she got fed up and wanted to be let go but he wouldn’t so she growled and he still didn’t let go, this is when I looked up and seen her little face – she was absolutely terrified of being restrained by him. I seen red and while storming towards him said very loudly, but not quite shouting, something along the lines of “Stop that let her go. Don’t you dare. You have no idea how long we have spent building up her confidence, she used to be such a nervous dog” He looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up and I thought good now you know a bit how Bonnie felt whenever you manhandled her. I immediately leashed up Bonnie, got myself sorted and left the class. On the way out the trainer asked my partner what was going on, my partner was diplomatic and said that she had lost her confidence and the trainer offered us to take a break in the sand ring nearby and to come back and try in a bit. By that point I was already adamant on leaving so we came on home and needless to say we won’t be returning.
Thankfully Bonnie seems to have suffered no lasting effects from that incident. She’s still her usual self. I am still furious about the incident but I have decided to take positives from it;
- It’s given me more confidence to stand up for Bonnie, I didn’t care in the slightest what others thought or if they thought I was “making a scene” all I cared about was getting Bonnie away from him and I will definitely be more proactive in preventing incidences like this happening in future
- Bonnie’s well being will always be more important than training objectives or competitiveness or doing things the “correct” or “usual” way
- We will work on positively reinforcing a collar grab – although she doesn’t mind us doing it, a stranger might need to do it in future for example in the unlikely chance of her straying or getting lost
- We will continue to do our own completely amateur agility training at home because Bonnie enjoys it and I don’t care if I can teach it properly or not as it’s only for fun and not for competitions
- It’s cemented in my mind about how in future I want to foster nervous, shy and sensitive dogs (most likely collies as we have so many in our pounds 😦 ) and rehabilitate them to show them the world is not a scary place and to prepare them for home life through positive training such as low stress grooming and handling etc
So I guess if there is something to take from all this its the following;
Be an advocate for your dog. You know your dog best and what is comfortable for your dog. Do not let any person bully you into doing something you are uncomfortable with or take suspect advice from, whether it’s a trainer (professionally qualified or not), groomer, vet or the guy at the dog park with the well behaved dog. Follow your gut instinct and always do your own research into training methods – will this be helpful or harmful to the bond between you and your dog? Whether that’s long term or short term? Ours dogs look to us for comfort and safety so let’s not abuse that trust by blindly listening to or following others bad advice.
It’s been a bit of a rant post so to leave on a positive note, here’s a photo of Bonnie who is a toy resource guarder chewing her ball beside me and she was even enjoying some pets – I can tell she doesn’t enjoy petting when she stops chewing her ball and she was happily chewing away!