Oct 15, 2021
4 mins read
Early this past spring, a prospective client calls me, desperate for help with their large, out of control, mature adult dog. They beg for an audience to see if the dog is salvageable, and swears they will do everything in their power to help the dog learn that the world is not his enemy.
The evaluation is pretty exciting. This dog is SERIOUS. If he gets loose, somebody's getting hurt. We manage to communicate despite the dogs' many attempts to dominate the conversation. The owner decides to sign on for training. Since April, the client is chronically rescheduling appointments, and the dog makes absolutely no improvement.
Session after session, it's the same excuse. Session after session I bite my tongue and forbid myself the pleasure of telling this person what a monumental waste of time this whole exercise has been. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this dog continues to menace the family, the community and every individual, animal, vegetable or mineral they encounter.
It's been almost 6 months since their initial start date. Their chronic absence was over 5 weeks this last time. Email correspondence suggested improvement, but without video evidence, which virtually every private lesson client is required to submit, I had no way of knowing. Only the owner's word. Their 7th appointment in 6 months was two days ago. None of the work we had instructed and practiced in prior lessons was evident. The dog was as bad if not worse than he was when we met in early spring. None of the work had been maintained, none of the safety protocols were being followed. Owner was convinced that since the dog was no longer threatening to eviscerate the neighbors, continuing the work as prescribed was unnecessary.
I was not surprised, as these things go. Usually the worse behaved the dog, the less inclined the owner is to take the training seriously. Generally, these dogs get 'this way' through the unconscious curation of ineffective or inconsistent handling by ownership that has been convinced by social media and current trends that correcting a dog is wrong, and then cry foul when you have the audacity to point out their... errors... They wish to label the dog as defective and insist that their erratic, emotionally fraught leadership didn't create their savage beast.
No, honey. It's made your dog worse.
When I instruct you to move into areas where there are minimal distractions and work on his less-than-stellar interpersonal skills, it's not an invitation to set him loose in a frikkin playground with a bunch of kids playing basketball, or drive him to Starbucks for a Venti Puppachino. When I tell you to make sure the dog remains at safe distances from innocent bystanders, it's not an invitation to have him menacing passers-by from under your table at the latest and greatest B'More outdoor dining area.
AND WHEN I SAY HE WEARS A MUZZLE, HE WEARS A DAMN MUZZLE. I don't want to hear how "He ain't tryna wear no muzzle." Your dog is a liability. Your dog is going to hurt someone. We had worked on muzzle conditioning months ago. What happened? Oh, yeah, I forgot. YOU STOPPED DOING THE WORK.
You have been warned.
You made that happen. You persisted in allowing it to CONTINUE to happen. You are unwilling to follow advice, and you refuse to reinforce simple things that can improve not only your ability to control the outcomes of his poor decisions, but your dogs' behavior overall.
Again, you have been warned.
Another perpetually rescheduling client with a similar issue, has much the same lack of commitment. It's always one excuse after another about why the dog remains unimproved. Video submissions are nonexistent. I cannot reiterate often enough that our online training portal is there for access to visual guides, written tutorials, and many examples of others with similar issues, so participants have a wellspring of data from which to analyze and extrapolate solutions.
There are consequences for actions. In this case, consequences loom brightly in the future for both of these individuals and their dogs as a result of their inability to comprehend that their lack of follow through jeopardizes not only themselves and the public, but the dogs as well.
I can't help that.
Moreover, I am not capable of helping that.
Although I have no problem helping folks, I cannot make them understand that.
They either want to fix it or they don't. They live a life where it's convenient to blame everybody else for their lack of success.
The lyrics from Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here" ring like claxons in my head;
"Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears..."
It's like groundhog day.
Going through the motions isn't training. Pretending to be invested in a process that will take at least half as long as it took to create the problem isn't either. Paying lip service to a process that pits someone against the things they prefer, and their moral or ethical obligations is easy. Actually doing it is hard. When it involves the welfare and safety of others, folks are ethically bound to do what's right, and if they cannot do that, then they're better off doing nothing. Because that's what most of them end up doing anyway.
I have a friend in Australia who has a great line; "Hope is not a plan of action!" If people think driving by their mechanic's place is going to fix their car via osmosis, they have about the same chance of fixing their dog.
You have been warned.