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The Gasp Works in Class

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Old July 14th 03, 03:45 PM
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Default The Gasp Works in Class

Halona is a 6 month old BIG pit bull mix who has been shuffled from class to
class. She was first enrolled at 4 months in my All-Maltese Puppy Class.
Pretty obvious why that didn't work. :} She did fine in her next class until
she outgrew her play-mates again. Size doesn't matter when the puppy learns to
take "no" for an answer from other pups, and learns how to adjust play-style to
different pups. Halona did neither. So she was briefly moved to a basic class
with larger adolescents who all play together very well. Her first day, she
got into a fight with another even larger pit bull mix. Or almost did. I
somehow grabbed both dogs by the collar (Ali) and harness (Halona) and held
them apart, snarling and lunging for each other, until their owners got control
of them. Physically impossible, by the way. I'm only 104 pounds, weak and
middle-aged, with arthritis in my hands. But that was the ONE day I forgot to
put a blanket out in the training area, so I had no choice. Amazing what
adrenaline can do. :}

On top of that, there are HUGE owner problems with her. As in, being shuffled
from a woman who I noted in my database the first night of class "doesn't want
to be here," to her elderly grandfather who can't control her, admits to not
working with her at home at all, and only takes her to class so she can play.

She came in to her second class with the new group yesterday accompanied by her
original owner, the woman. With all the classes she's had, she has learned to
reliably sit and down. That's all. But she learned it in that one hour a week
of class, with no work at home, which I thought showed some above average
trainability in her.

Apparently mom has finally fallen in love with her, seen what she is capable of
doing, and is now interested in training her.

All 3 other dogs in that class didn't show up yesterday, which was good for
Halona. I spent the whole hour working with mom, mostly showing her how to
deal with Halona's new behavior problems. Yes, NOW Halona is an adolescent,
and what a change. She had great focus, and yesterday was one of the most
difficult dogs to focus I've had in training. Plus it became obvious that she
hasn't been exposed to nearly enough new experiences. She freaked over a child
riding by on a small bicycle, a woman pushing a baby carriage, and an associate
using a vacuum cleaner. Mom said she's "trying to protect us." Not even. :}
She barked and piloerected (is that a word?), but her whole posture was
fearful. If any of them had come in her direction, I'm sure she would have run
under a chair. So we talked about taking her more places where she can
experience more before she gets any older and more hinky, and how to react when
she is fearful.

Okay, I keep going off on tangents. But Halona has been weighing heavily on me
for a while now. I had decided to try to talk her owners into surrendering
her, and finding a place to foster her. Mom's renewed interest has given me
hope. Apparently the new boyfriend also likes dogs, but he was at first
relucant to work with her. "She won't do it for me," he said. We talked him
into asking her for a sit, she did it, and now he's sparked, too. They've
agreed to start over from Week 1 in my next Sunday class. No additional
charge. It will be a basic, not a puppy, so no playing. She's already showing
signs of needing close supervision with other dogs, and I talked with mom about
that, too.

Anyway, here's what I started out to write about. :}

As I said, there was a different dog in the class yesterday. It's obvious that
adolescence has hit and hit hard. "Eh" has absolutely no effect on her any
more. So I tried The Gasp that worked so well on Madigan. Yup, it gets her
immediate attention too. Most of the time. Exceptions explained below. :}

I also went by instinct and found myself using techniques on her that I never
use on other dogs. For example, she would sit on command, then bounce back up
and focus on something outside of the training area, completely ignoring
whoever was trying to work with her (me or her owner). Even a hot dog held in
front of her nose couldn't get her attention. Normally I'd just put a leash on
a dog like that, and hold it loosely but with only a couple of inches of
lee-way, so the dog couldn't get anywhere and have any fun, and would have to
turn his attention back to me. But she's too big and powerful to control that
way. Besides, no matter how many times I've asked her owners to change her
equipment, she has on a harness and a metal chain leash. (Yesterday mom agreed
to get a regular buckle collar, but insists she'll eat any other type of
leash.) So I found myself using the leash to immobilize her. For her, the
physical correction worked. (Correction in the sense of not allowing her to
move at all - of course there's no real "leash correction" one can give on a

This is a dog who would probably do best on a pinch collar in class. Not to
use for leash corrections, but simply to have physical control. She has one
for walking, but we can't use them in class. I think I'm going to ask for
permission to use it. (Our AT can give us permission, but we need it in

On another good note, I think I wrote about Snoopy, the little dachsund puppy
who was afraid of strange people and other dogs, and not warming up very well.
He was in the class that Halona spent most of her time in, and they graduated
yesterday. He also had his biggest break-through during his last class.
Instead of following the other pups around barking non-stop, which is as far as
it got, he was actively initiating play and playing - even with the big lab
mix! And not barking. And for the first time, he ran up to me and gave me a
kiss. Whoohoo!!!

Sometimes I love this job. :}

PetsMart Pet Trainer
My Kids, My Students, My Life:
Last updated June 27 at 10:00 a.m.


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