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Monday, November 06, 2006

Formal Training: Day 1

Cheyenne's first training session was this past weekend and she made me so proud! There were 9 dogs there ranging from around 4 months old to 2 years old. Each was as different as the next and although there were a couple of loud dogs (one booming bark came in a very small terrier!), there was one particular dog that stood out.

Enter a giant male yellow Labrador Retriever with the attention span of a gnat. My heart sank because he was accompanied by 4 family members: the father, the mother, the teenage daughter, and the pre-teen son. Not one of them knew how to handle this dog and they just kept passing this ball of energy in fur from one person to the next. It was clear there was a problem; this family knew nothing about Labrador Retrievers.

The poor pup wouldn't do any of the commands because they could not get his attention. They resorted to raising their voices and, as any Lab owner knows, this does nothing but wear the human out. The "treat" they brought in as part of the requirement was a plain biscuit, which the dog cared not about.

So, during this training session, the mother and father kept asking the trainer things ranging from why the Lab was so energetic to why their Lab was so un-trainable. Lucky for them, this trainer has not only a Lab but also a Pit Bull and two Great Danes. This trainer knew how each breed is different and said in a very plain and kind of bored tone: "Your Lab needs exercise!" The mother was taken back and explained how he went in and out of the house all day and they have 2 acres of land. Hello!?! Anyone listening?? Your Lab needs exercise! Since when does walking in and out of a doorway, with no ball/fetch/run/play time, constitute exercise? They never make use of the 2 acres, never take the dog to the park, don't make the dog work for food/treats, and pretty much expect the dog to entertain himself.

This is why I applaud those that do their research on dog breeds first before bringing one into their homes. Clearly, these people had no idea what a Lab needs because they kept looking at Cheyenne and stating how good she was. Sure, she is good cause I started her training from 8 weeks old and she was also at the dog park running around with other dogs for an hour before coming to the training class. The last thing I wanted was a hyper 1-year old Lab pup with too much energy in a small space with other dogs and not listening to me.

Luckily, this trainer understood the breed well and devised a strategy to get him into a class with less dogs and teach this particular family about the breed. She even started by handing the family some stinky smelling dried liver treats, which immediately got this big Lab's attention! I hope and pray it all works well for them. The last thing we need is another Lab brought to a kill shelter because the family never took the time to understand the breed.

Upon leaving our training session, my heart skipped a beat when the trainer turned to me and said: "You have done very well with Cheyenne. She is very well trained." I thought the smile on my face would be permanent until she then added: "Next week, we will try weaning the treats from Cheyenne's training." I have to laugh because we both knew that Cheyenne will do anything for food - now we just have to get her to do anything for me - without the food.

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