Evaluated

For a couple of reasons, we need to switch dog training facilities. After talking through some of Silas’s “special needs” with the training manager, we decided it would be best if Silas came by to meet the trainer and see how things went. At the time, I thought this was a sweet offer, like, “Oh, come look around! You’ll love it here!” After we got off the phone I realized that they actually wanted to evaluate us before they recommended a class.

When you use the word “evaluate” and “Silas” in the same sentence, I get kind of anxious. I know he’s kind of a mess, but I’m a little touchy about other people telling me that. (This is the A #1 reason he’s not in doggie daycare, which I think he would enjoy. I can’t handle him not passing the admission test.)

If the purpose of an evaluation is to see a dog’s full range of behaviors, we certainly achieved it. Silas met the training manager and greeted her perfectly. He sat in front of her, let her pet him, etc. Then he peed all over the floor. The actual trainer (male) set off a hysterical barking episode. People outside, even with dogs, could walk past with no problems. Yep, that’s the range.

Silas also did his usual too-scared-to-eat-outside routine, which was what I needed to actually show the trainer. At this facility, intermediate obedience is outside and (as I suspected) that’s not going to work.

The good things are many, though. Silas did not pull me around like a crazy on the end of his leash. He met dogs in a totally awesome way. He almost immediately took treats from the trainer, even after the barking episode. Most of our conversation was outside, and by the end Silas actually did eat a few little treats. Even better, just as I was leaving the trainer mentioned non-treat reinforcement. I pulled out Silas’s beloved tiny beaver toy. He did his full-on “How can I get that?!?” routine for tiny beaver toy, including lying on his side. On the sidewalk. It was nice to prove that he both knows things and has potential to work outdoors.

Even better, new trainer could tell what was up. He watched Silas’s body language, and we talked though some of the degrees of stress Silas was showing. His last trainer, as sweet and helpful as she was, mistook him being completely catatonic for him “calming down.” There were some other really good signs, too–he admitted that we might be better off going to the (apparently really awesome) veterinary behaviorist in town. He sketched out a training plan for Silas that made a lot of sense, based on some things I’ve been reading.

The verdict is that we are, indeed, not ready for Intermediate Obedience. Instead of going through Obedience I (version three), though, the trainer thinks we would be better off using our money for private lessons. He thinks that maybe two or three private lessons will teach Silas a few coping skills that will give him a better foundation for the regular class.

Here’s hoping.

(I’ve been a boring blogger this week and haven’t posted any pictures. Tune in tomorrow for an extravaganza!)

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5 thoughts on “Evaluated

  1. I’m a huge advocate for finding the trainer that works for you. Good for you!! It sounds like these people might actually be on the right track! I’m hoping some private lessons might give you a little bit of confidence in your abilities, you are an awesome dog ‘mom.’

    I bet you will be surprised at how quickly Silas learns in the private environment. 🙂

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    1. I’d been avoiding private lessons, because class was an excuse to meet new people in a controlled way. The trainer thinks we can teach Silas some good coping mechanisms, though, and then he will have some actual skills to fall back on, rather than just practice. I’m very excited.

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  2. Sounds like this is a good trainer, and observant. I’m surprised by how often even real “dog people” don’t understand canine body language. My vets interpret Bel’s near catatonic reaction to them as “calm” rather than totally shut down from fear, too. (Until she poops on the exam table or something–then they get it!). I hope you’ll find something that works for Silas–perhaps a few private lessons?

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