After three weeks of one on one instruction I felt both she and her handler would benefit from group classes. He wants to rush to the task training and tends to wander in his thought process. He was interested in raw feeding and why someone would do it, and wanted to show me a dog sling they bought for the back of the car for her to ride in and kept bringing up other subjects as well. I want to answer his questions, but find I don't get enough instruction in for him to work on the next step in Dakota's learning. I felt a group class, where he was in a more formal classroom setting, would help him focus and get more instruction than was happening in a one on one setting.
I suggested he sign her up for the Head Start class at Diamonds in the Ruff. He agreed and started classes at the beginning of June. The first class was supposed to be without dogs, but many of the students didn't listen to that instruction and brought their dogs anyway. My client was a bit overwhelmed with paperwork and missed during lecture that the next class would be with dogs and treats.
The second class he arrived with Dakota, but without treats. Dakota was happy and wiggly and couldn't help herself in saying hi to every dog she got near. Thankfully, all the dogs she did say hi to were friendly. My being able to observe my client work with Dakota during class helped a lot.
Dakota, who was very distracted, was able to refocus with treats, but tended to wiggle everywhere. This habit of wiggling and checking out her environment lent to my client pulling up on her lead and holding her collar tight. I finally told him to loosen the lead so she could learn what a loose lead would feel like.
Even an experienced dog person tends to miss something when working with a dog. I missed Dakota's discomfort during the first part of class. I had thought her sitting and standing when put in a down was just her excitement, but it turned out to be a completely different issue. When working with my client to have Dakota move from in front of him to beside him and sit she suddenly lost bladder control and dropped a huge amount of urine.
I quickly brought the attention of the issue to the class instructor, asked for a second lead so I could remove Dakota from the area and moved wrong, which later put me in major back spasms, and knelt to stop her from pulling out of her collar. Once I freed her from the tight lead my client had on her, I took her out quickly, where she dropped and urinated the same amount as inside and then moved a few steps and defecated. It was then I realized her jumpy behavior had been due to being uncomfortable.
I did discuss with him the importance of allowing her to relieve herself prior to going anywhere; I believe this incident will not be forgotten.
What I learned is my client does better with a hands free lead. When doing the loose leash part of class we rigged a temporary hands free lead and his communication with Dakota improved greatly. He also was not pulling on or holding her lead tight all the time. I need to find a quick and easy way to make him and Dakota hands free so they work better together.
He does a lot of body movement when giving commands and tends to give hand signals that can be confusing to Dakota. I believe with a little work and slowing him down a bit she'll understand him better and they'll have improved communication.
He hasn't been working her with distractions after teaching a cue. Once learned in the living room he thinks she's learned it and doesn't understand why she doesn't do the cue when he takes her outside. I have explained it to him before, but I think I need to setup specific lessons that take him outside, or put him in a funny position to Dakota to help him understand how to expand on what he's taught her in the house.
He loves her and truly wants what is best for her, and I believe with continued group classes he'll succeed in learning the foundation of training her. I will continue to keep contact with him and work with him individually as needed, but I am headed to group classes with him and Dakota to give her the best chance at success in distracting locations.