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Training Club Woes... WWYD?

(8 Posts)
LetThereBeCupcakes Thu 31-Mar-16 09:42:46

I used to take both of my DDogs to a lovely training club. Just one lady (We'll call her A), but she had lots of contacts in the dog training world, and often organized one day taster workshops in all sorts of things (like Heelwork to Music, Agility etc). All clicker / reward based training. We started when DDog 1 was 9 months (Having moved from a different puppy class), DDog 2 started when we adopted her aged 2. Some of the training got a bit "samey", but on the whole it was great. Then, last summer, DDog 1 started getting really grabby with food. A decided we needed to "sort things out" and proceeded to try some new "techniques" that she'd learned. I didn't like what she was doing, and when she grabbed him by his collar and pulled him to the ground I told her to stop, that he was scared. She laughed and said I was over-reacting, so I took both dogs and walked out. I never heard from her again.

I started looking around for a new club. There's a real shortage of decent trainers around here. We tried another club, and it was really good - but unfortunately the lesson my dogs needed to be in (it was graded) was late in the evening, and I wasn't getting home until 11pm. With a none-sleeping toddler and having to get up at 5.30am for work I just couldn't do it.

There was only one club left to try (all others were punishment based). I wasn't overly keen as the lessons were only 30 minutes, which didn't seem enough, but I decided to give it a try. I worked the dogs in separate classes so I had 1-2-1 time with each one. It was OK. The training techniques were out of date (no clickers, trainer felt "good dog" was sufficient reward, the occasional aversive technique when a dog "misbehaved"). I decided to stick with it because my dogs were already well trained so I could just use the space to carry on with my own thing. I told the trainer I would not be using any punishment, and that I didn't want anybody else to handle my dogs. He agreed.

A couple of weeks later the trainer asked if I'd consider taking on training a class myself. I agreed, however it's become quite clear that our methods are completely incompatible. A few other members are also helping out, some are following the old school methods, some are following mine. It's becoming quite clear that this isn't working, trainer doesn't like my "new fangled" methods and clearly resents other people copying me.

Since then, DDog 1 has died (aged 6 - cancer). This was probably the cause of his grabbiness which caused the fall out with trainer A.

I don't think I can stay at the current club, I suspect I'll be asked to leave sooner rather than later, but the only other option is to go back to the first club. A mutual friend has spoken to me and said that Trainer A really regrets what she did and has "learned her lesson"... but I don't know if I can trust her TBH.

Alternatively I could give up the weekly sessions altogether and keep an eye out for short courses / workshops, which do crop up occasionally. My house is small but I do have a good sized garden so could do regular training at home.

Any advice?

Floralnomad Thu 31-Mar-16 09:49:53

No offence but if you feel capable to be running a class and hence presumably telling people who potentially know very little what to do I can't understand why you still go to classes . I understand why people go to agility / fly ball groups but once the dog has the basics it's easy enough to carry on on your own .

LetThereBeCupcakes Thu 31-Mar-16 09:54:18

Every decent trainer I know trains their own dogs regularly. No trainer can know every technique and it's good to share experiences. You also can't watch yourself and see what you're doing wrong.

Scuttlebutter Thu 31-Mar-16 13:48:55

It all sounds a bit muddled to be honest. I love training with our dogs but I find it helpful to have goals (both short and long term) in mind. For example, when one of our dogs came to us, she had zero recall, so my top priority was working on recall. That's still something I invest a lot of time and treats in.

For our little lurcher who does Rally, this year we are going to do our GC Bronze Award and achieve Level 2 in Rally. I am also starting to think ahead about working offlead for higher levels. Doing this gives my training a particular focus, and while I love the other stuff we do I find this helpful in reviewing progress.

Being an instructor has a very specific skill set, and is this something you really want to do? If you are teaching others you can't be focusing on your own dogs. Also as you get better, your standards get higher, and you will need more advanced trainers so you have to be prepared to travel. Our Rally coach works with Kay Laurence and travels a considerable distance for regular (obviously not weekly!!) sessions with her. Moving to less frequent but higher level workshops may be one way, and do you have anyone of a similar level near you that you can buddy with to do joint training sessions with in the meantime? You can video each other (SO helpful for identifying niggles and those annoying "I didn't even realise I was doing that" habits) and help critique each other/set exercises etc.

cheerfulmary Thu 31-Mar-16 14:14:57

I would not set foot in a training class that uses aversive methods even if they did not use them on my dog. Most dogs will be stressed and the atmostphere for your own dogs would not be great. Also what are you learning?

I would go to selective training and workshop days - there are lots of them about

Grisha Stewart next month
Kamal Fernandez is a regular at giving workshops
IMDT courses are fantastic and if you work your way through those you will be very busy smile
Sign up to Dog Seminar and events on facebook or available training days on facebook

LetThereBeCupcakes Thu 31-Mar-16 14:32:28

Thanks scuttle. Yes, it is very muddled. The sooner there’s some decent regulation of the Dog Training Industry the better IMO!

I’m the same re: goals. Ddog is working towards her KC Gold Award (she’s ready, actually, just waiting for an opportunity to do the test). I’m very jealous of your local rally club. We do short courses and workshops whenever we can but the weekly classes are too far away for me to manage in an evening unfortunately.

I enjoy training handlers, yes – I have a diploma in canine behaviour and lots of experience. My particular interest / expertise is behaviour (especially rehabilitation of “problem” dogs). I’ve got a reputation locally and a lot of people ask for my advice. I’ve been running the Bronze level class whilst working my dog in Gold. I feel I’ve been able to add a lot to the club so far – the other trainers only know one method of teaching most things (usually using force), whereas I’ve got quite a few methods up my sleeve. I’ve been able to get all of the dogs labelled as “stubborn” up to the same level as the others with proper motivation and a few tweeks to training techniques. This has unfortunately upset the head trainer, who I think has taken it quite personally (even though he asked me to do it in the first place!)

I do have a friend who would do one-to-ones with me – she’s an amazing trainer but lives over an hour away. It’s difficult with a young family. Maybe that’s the way to go, though. I just like having that weekly time slot, where I can take Ddog and get out of the house and really focus on her for a bit.

Cheerful thank you so much for the recommendations! That's the sort of stuff I'm looking for. I often get things pop up in my FB feed but I'm always a bit dubious if I've not heard of the trainer, you never know do you? You're right that there are a lot of stressed dogs (although the Gold Level class that I work DDog in is OK, most of the dogs are "trained" in their opinion so they're just practicing and not pushed (I'm a bit mean and keep pushing mine though! grin

I've looked out a few new books too, and loaded up my kindle. I'll just have to get my fix that way in the meantime!

cheerfulmary Thu 31-Mar-16 15:32:59

Just do it - set up your own training classes. Do this first call in all favours to get child care etc it is worth it

Then the 4 day practical - you will be teaching way more than the gold after those courses - the dogs may be trained but are usually bored to tears in the citizen classes smile

Get into the IMDT circle and you will get lots of places you can gain more experience

You can be examined for your gold citizen at some obedience comps so you do not need to be at a club to achieve this either

Whats on your reading list?

LetThereBeCupcakes Fri 01-Apr-16 08:13:31

Thanks, it's certainly my long term plan. But now isn't the right time, I'm 18 weeks pg, really suffered with HG so would risk letting people down if I tried starting up at the point. Finding a venue is a nightmare around here, nobody will allow dogs in.

Current reading list is:
Don't shoot the dog
In defence of dogs
Excel-erated learning
And I want to re-read culture clash.

I'm currently reading up on the bucket game, and trying to resist a 3 day conference next March...

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