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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Dog Training Fiasco



Two days after our "training" session with Jackie at TLC Dog Training, we fired her. I fired her.

Rewind.

As you know from my last post, we had Buddy in doggie daycare with Jackie.  The night of that post, and the next couple of nights, Buddy came home so exhausted that he caused no havoc.  No biting. No problems.  When Jackie brought him home the very first night, she gave us some unexpected insight.  She told us that Buddy was "dog aggressive" based on his reaction toward a German Shepherd in the parking lot of a vet clinic she took him to (for her purposes, not because he needed to go).  She provided a "half" explanation of dogs and their "packs" and how we needed to prevent him from raising himself to pack leader in our pack.  During the course of conversation, I mentioned the Kong we bought for him and how we were trying to be somewhat consistent with the Cascades Humane Society by providing him the Kong with some treats in it, covered on one end by peanut butter and Cheerios.  She immediately admonished us about giving him any human food, especially peanut butter or nuts because "dogs have allergies just like humans do."

Pause.

I have to tell you that right after she left I told Steve I wasn't going to stop the peanut butter Kong treats because a) Cascades gave it to him, b) the vet clinic gave it to him two days before and c) Buddy LOVES peanut butter.  Ok, so I guess the "leftovers" from our plates are off limits now. :-(

Back on track.

Buddy's first day in daycare was Wednesday.  He was pretty exhausted Thursday and Friday, too.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week, Buddy did NOT get a walk when he got home.  He ate some food and was horizontal for the night.  We had issues though, getting him into his crate at night.  When I mentioned this to Jackie, she recommended we use cheese, especially cheddar cheese, to lure him into his crate.  Of course, the first thing I think is, "but that's human food."  No.  I didn't say anything to her about it.  Instead, I tried it. Worked like a CHARM!!!

Buddy was in daycare with Jackie for eight days before our Sunday training session.  The first three days, as I said, he was exhausted when he got home.  The weekend was the same hell we lived with the first week we had him.  Constant attempts on his part to bite and nip. Getting into everything.  Using the "off" and "leave it" command simply failed us.

The training was on Sunday.  On Saturday, we were planning to go out of town right after work to visit with our new niece, Madison, and then to see a show which included my uncle and cousin.  It was going to be a long day of out of town time for us and we're not at a point that I felt comfortable asking my sister to let him out or feed him, so we hired Jackie to take care of him on that Saturday and to keep him overnight, based on weather reports of a winter storm warning and considering it would be near or after 11 pm when we got back into town.  We dropped him off after we got out of work at 12pm on Saturday.

 On training day, Jackie asked if we could postpone the time a bit because they stopped at Bob Evans after church and the wait was long.  I said sure.  I'm often an agreeable person.  I asked if it would be good to have my sister and her kids there, since they live so close and I anticipate them being fairly involved in Buddy's life.  Jackie said that would be fine.  It's my training and if I wanted to invite the whole neighborhood, I could.

We learned a fair amount in training.  She didn't take us to Pet Supplies Plus or Tractor Supply Co with him like she indicated when I first set up the training (part of socializing him).  We learned how to "take him down." Boy, if that wasn't a bit of a throwback to my days as a direct care worker in group homes... She stayed until 6pm.  That's the original time.  She quit on time.  Even though she started late.  And she charged me the original price instead of compensating for the shorter amount of time.

As she was getting ready to leave, she said she'd been "doing something different" with Buddy regarding food.  Mind you, when I first spoke with her, I told her we had him on a feeding schedule of twice a day.  Once in the morning and once after we got home from work.  Again, this feeding schedule was based on what was happening at Cascades Humane Society while he was there.  And when she said that, I asked, "wait.  You've been feeding him?"  It took her a second to respond, and then she said, "well, I had to feed him last night and today."  Paranoid?  Maybe.  But perhaps you had to be there to understand why I was suddenly so suspicious that this woman had been feeding my dog throughout his doggie daycare stay.

Did I mention that her normal "rate" for doggie daycare is $10 a day?  And that we paid her an extra $5 per day for the first eight days because he "didn't know anything?"  He didn't even understand the command "sit."

He misbehaved so much during our training session that I (Steve and I had already discussed this as a need) said I'd see her Monday morning. She seemed surprised that I'd continue the doggie daycare.

Monday morning, I called when we were close to her house, as was our arrangement so she was ready for Buddy's arrival.  She stated in our phone conversation that she was not pleased with how training went on Sunday and that she wanted to work with just me and Steve and Buddy.  Free.  To compensate for it.  Ok.  I'm agreeable.  After all, the only things I REALLY learned in the training session that I didn't know were the pressure points and how to take him down when he refused to respond to commands or when he was biting.

Monday afternoon she sent me a text with a photo of Buddy laying sedately on her floor.  The text of her message said "this is how he is all day, I even have to ask him to move to sweep."  Honestly, it's no longer a wonder that he had the energy to attack and bite at us, which he did every night after the first 3 days in doggie daycare.

Monday evening when I picked him up, she talked about how he should never be left alone with my infant niece (who's not even 3 months at the time of the training) because of his behavior.  We discussed her coming over Saturday afternoon for additional (free) training.  She mentions giving him some scrambled eggs that morning (my mind screamed WHAT?! but my mouth stayed shut...for that moment). 

Katana and I get Buddy home Monday evening.  He's not even in the house for ten minutes before he "attacks" one of the couch pillows with his "death shake" (Jackie's term, not mine).  I attempt the "leave it" command.  He doesn't leave it.  I attempt to retrieve the pillow, using the leave it command and he becomes aggressive toward me.  I take him down as instructed on training day.  He bites me, more aggressively than ever and draws blood.

Katana described it to Megan as "Old Yeller after he got rabies."  I cried when it was done.  I was certain that Steve would demand that the dog go after biting me.  I even considered (briefly) not telling him.

But when Steve got home, I told him everything.  Including my conversation with Jackie.  And we talked about her feeding Buddy human food after telling us it was a major no-no.  And Steve didn't say we needed to get rid of Buddy.  But he did say that I needed to make sure Jackie knew, the following morning, that it was not acceptable for her to feed him human food.  And we expect Buddy to be outside, running off some energy.

And I had a horrible night's sleep.

I woke up the next morning and told Steve that I couldn't take Buddy to daycare.  Steve started to say something about my non-confrontational manner and I stopped him.  I explained that it was more a matter of being concerned about how she might retaliate if I told her that I didn't want him eating human food (or any food for that matter) at her place.  Who knows what she would do with Buddy while he was in her care?  I wasn't willing to take that chance.  Steve understood that.  He didn't want me to tell her about Buddy biting me and drawing blood.  I agreed that I wouldn't volunteer the information.

And I didn't have to volunteer it.  Jackie asked how Monday night went, and I reported that it was horrible.  I told her about getting bitten.  I told her how it started.  I told her what I did.  I told her that I wasn't happy that she fed my dog human food on Monday.  I told her that I now wondered how many other times that may have happened.  I told her I didn't appreciate pictures of him sleeping on her floor when we thought he was out running and playing out some of the tremendous energy he has.  Most importantly, I told her that I felt it was time to make Buddy a part of our pack and not her pack.  She agreed with that.  She argued with everything else.

Her take down method made my dog more vicious toward me than he had ever been. Two weeks or two years.  Didn't matter to me.  It was time to move on. It was time to try something else. I paid her almost a monthly mortgage payment in the amount of time we utilized her services.

And it wasn't all for naught.  We learned some stuff.  We learned some valuable stuff.  And my advice to anyone considering doggie daycare would be to NOT do it with a dog that isn't FIRMLY embedded in your family.  I believe that taking Buddy to her residence simply confused him about where he belonged.

Do I think that my money spent with Jackie was a complete loss?  No.  We learned some valuable information.  Do I think she was my end-all solution to Buddy's behavioral problems? No.  We've got a lot of work in front of us.

Let me tell you about the two weeks since then. 

Soon.

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