Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just Say No

When you take training classes or private lessons with your dogs, occasionally you may be given a suggestion you disagree with. Even if you are a beginner student, keep in mind that you are the trainer's employer.

Riley and I took a semi-private lesson the other day and we worked on dumbbell retrieves for part of the session. Riley chases the dumbbell, picks it up, and tends to drops it in my direction. She is still learning the fine art of holding it until I take it. So when Riley opens her mouth, I put my hand under her chin, and prevent her from dropping it. When she closes her mouth, holds the dumbbell, and does so while I put my hands back down at my sides, I will take the dumbbell and reward with a treat. Its perfectly reasonable (although not an acceptable performance) for Riley to want to get the dumbbell out of her mouth and ready for a treat as soon as possible. So I am explaining to Riley that the treat prerequisite is that you must also hold the dumbbell until I take it. In a way, I am sort of correcting Riley, but mostly I feel that I am helping her not fail so I can reinforce a successful outcome. I attempted to video this for you, but Riley did so well that I only had to touch her chin once.

My trainer suggested that I let Riley drop the dumbbell and pop her under the chin. My gut told me that Riley would probably not figure out that holding the dumbbell would prevent the pop under the chin. Her zest for the dumbbell would probably diminish. It was more likely that she would drop the dumbbell out of my reach or stop picking up the dumbbell all together.

It does not matter what level you are working at or what kind of class or private lesson you are attending, sometimes you will disagree with the trainer. Please do not do something your gut is telling you is not right for your dog. You are paying the trainer. That person is working for you and it is okay for you to say "I don't think that will work for Riley." If your trainer is offended, you need a different trainer. My lovely trainer said "Ok, it looks like what you are doing is working also."