"Well, this is lucky!" Mr. Dean said happily. " I have a beginner class starting tonight!"
I was a little taken aback, but the thought of being nipped every morning ...
"Great! What time? We'll be there!"
My next surprise was that only owners attend the first lesson. I have since come to appreciate the value of an orientation class without the distraction of maintaining control of an excited dog. Mr. D. explained his training philosophy, what would happen in classes, and the importance of practice to a roomful of nervous dog owners. (It was pretty obvious which end of the leash he believed would be getting trained.) He instructed us on how to buy a "choke" collar and what kind of leash (plain, 6 ft. long) and treats (soft, broken to bits) to bring to class.
What's not to like about that? The controversial part is that wrong or bad behavior is corrected. There is another valid philosophy of dog training that is based only on positive feedback. You'll be hearing more about that on this blog as the saga of training Toby continues.
Mr. D. said over and over again, "WE DON'T CHOKE THE DOG!" Now, if you are like me, you thought that was the whole idea behind a choke collar. But Mr. Dean demonstrated the quick, not-too-hard snap on the leash that causes the collar to make a noise as the metal rings slide across each other. Dogs find that scratchy sound right behind their ears as unpleasant as fingernails on a blackboard are for us, and will quickly comply with a command or stop their misbehavior.
Mr. D. emphasized that obedience training is the key to good behavior in day-to-day family life. He used the example of asking the puppy to sit before he gets his dinner. Having yummy kibble resulting from obedience leads to the puppy thinking at other times, "Hmm, obeying that lady gets me dinner. I think I'll get off the couch since she told me to." In my situation, that sounded pretty darned fantastic - really, as in a fantasy! I looked around and saw a kind of wistful disbelief on the other owners' faces too.
|A fuzzy blur in perpetual motion!|
But, hey. Mr. D.'s own dog, Dixie, had been lying on a grass berm next to the parking lot, attentive, but motionless, when I arrived. Mr. D. himself was in the building. He was that confident that Dixie would stay where he told her to until he called her. I couldn't imagine ever having a dog that would do that. Dixie's performance was the testimony I needed that Mr. D. knew his business. So I wrote my check, picked up my first week's instructions, and headed home to love on my puppy.