Just as any other field dog training has several subsets within it such as dog sports, behavior consulting, aggression, protection, nose work, & service dog training just to name a few. Any good trainer is going to focus on one or two but not try to cover them all. It takes years of study and practice to get good enough to not work with problem behaviors but to TEACH others as well. When I am working with my students something I try to work with them on is that they do not try to work too fast. This is a skill that is hard for a lot of my students to understand. They want the end goal without laying the foundation for that work first. And that is just our human nature, we just want to get the results as fast as we can. It takes time.
When we are going through a course of training I want to have a student practice 2-3 behaviors a week verses 5-6 because they will be much stronger on those 2-3 behaviors when we start building on top of them with other behaviors. Think of it as building a house. My students have heard this a million times.
If you put up shaky walls and then then try to put up the roof, something is going to cave.
If you rush though teaching the sit behavior and do not practice it enough, when people come over or you come home from work, your dog is going to jump all over you or them!!!!
When I was a young trainer, I had an experience with a very young lab that had been pulled from a shelter because he was scheduled to be put euthanized. The training facility that I worked at did a lot of aggression rehab we even had quite a few dogs that come from dog fighting rings and were State’s evidence. The lady with this rescue group brought in this lab for his evaluation to see if we could help him and I was mentoring under the owner at the time so I was present. He just laid beside her and passed his eval with flying colors he was so calm and we didn’t understand why he was going to be put down.
The plan was that he would to the vet to be neutered and come to us the next day to start his rehab. When he arrived he was taken back to a den and set up for the night and all was well. The next morning I was the manager on duty and went back with another employee to give him his antibiotics and pain meds. These next few hours I will never forget. I had his meds stuck in hot dogs and he wouldn’t take them. I knew better than to put my face in front of his as that is considered the danger zone. So I stood behind him and held him with my knees and opened his mouth to put the pills in his mouth as I had been trained. Well, he never got those pills. I felt rather than saw him go still. Dogs have the same stress responses that we humans do, Fight, Flight, or Freeze. With dogs, Flight comes first. If they are unable to flee the thing that is stressing them out they will Freeze and then they will Fight.
I barely had enough time to tell the other girl to go get our boss before he turned on me. We used to carry Mendota leashes they were a slip lead that could easily be slipped over any dog’s head and used without a collar.
I was able to slip the loop over his mouth once I got him off of me and wrap it around his head like a muzzle. This is the only thing that saved me from suffering any more damage than I did.
Three of those bites went down to the bone. I remember having to go and get the other head Aggression trainer as this dog was going after the owner of our facility as well once she got me out of the den. He was in a group training class and I was trying to hide my arms from any of his students and I remember the look of anger on his face for me interrupting his class until I stepped back out of the door and held up my arms, and then he rushed into action to help me and the owner.
Long story short. The lady that rescued this lab pup drugged him with Acepromazine. Now for those of you that don’t know what that drug does. It is a pre-anesthetic tranquilizer but we have learned that while it does slow down the body it does not slow down the mind. So the dog is freaked out of their mind because their body is not working like normal and their mind and their fear is in overdrive. It used to be the go to for sedation because of anxiety for dogs but as we have learned more and become wiser to what it does to them mentally, it’s not used as much anymore thankfully.
Now, this little “episode” left me with a very healthy fear and some lasting jumpiness with labs. Until Lilly Bell, I didn’t really like labs. I would even go as far as to say that I was afraid of them. Working with Lilly and Ashlynn for the last 6 years has definitely helped me overcome that fear, but because of that fear, I did not study aggression enough to be as comfortable as I should be with it. I do know what I’m doing and I have taken a few cases as I do study it as part of my continuing education for my behavioral consultant certification. It however is not my specialty, that is Service Dog Training. I have spent the last 6 of my 14-year career laser-focused on Service Dog training. Taking courses & webinars, attending conferences, reading books, training my own dogs, working with other trainers. This is where my unique skill set is best suited to helping others.