There are some things in life that we just know to be wrong. They feel wrong, even if no one has told us that they are indeed wrong. There's something in the way our gut twists when we do a thing that our souls tell us we shouldn't do.
It's no secret to any of you that I love my dogs in that goofy kind of way that means I often talk to them the way I used to talk to my toddlers. In fact the love of animals is so infectious that my son said to me, when our little Bodhi was just a puppy, "Mom, you have to stop talking to him like that. He won't learn English correctly!"
We both just looked at each other and burst into laughter. He had forgotten, just for a moment, that Bodhi doesn't need to know proper English. Just the basics: sit, stay, come, down, and high five!
It should also be no secret that I was greatly challenged by the big speckled beast during his daddy's absence. There were tears of frustration. There was some yelling. There were days I didn't know if I could go on.
But when hubby came home, he said, "I kind of expected to come home and find you curled up in a chair with Bodhi running the place. You did a great job with him!" I was very pleased to hear that he thought so. In the same way that it's difficult to see the minute growth of our children until we see months of it through the eyes of the grandparents, in the same way that we don't notice our waistline growing until one awful day in a dressing room with fluorescent lights, I could not see the improvement in my little pal.
I had already scheduled the dog trainer to come back out on Friday morning, so I kept the appointment. She is a trainer that works for a franchise that shall go unnamed here, and we had her come out once before when Bodhi was much younger. We didn't like her methods then, but I was beginning to think I had done everything wrong with him, given his penchant for dragging me around the neighborhood, knocking little kids to the ground (all in good fun) and rushing out between my feet when I opened the door. I needed the big guns.
So for an hour on Friday morning, I worked intently with Bodhi and the trainer, but it felt strange. Her methods again felt wrong to me. She works with action threat and the very basic negative correction that dogs supposedly use on each other. And we did all this with a choke chain. When he didn't respond to walking by my side with a mild correction on the collar, she suggested we use a squirt of water in his face. It wasn't long before he stopped cooperating with the training. It was quite obvious that he was no longer interested in being outside. He just wanted to go away. I couldn't blame him, really. She would show me over and over how to do the walk and the corrections. He looked over his shoulder at me at one point as if to say, "Mommy, can this lady go home now? I just want you."
Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing here, but that dog and I have the same connection as I do with so many of the beings who have crossed my path. Above everything else, he trusts me. He trusts me not to hurt him. I don't smack him and I don't want to use the collar on him anymore. According to the experts out there, it can be easily misused, resulting in injury to the dog.
It didn't help that at his skin recheck at the vet on Saturday, my vet reacted with disappointment that I was using the methods of this trainer. He explained some other options to me, and I thought I was going to cry right there in the office. Suddenly I felt 2" tall and very much like a backwards idiot. Surely I know enough about psychology to know that positive reinforcement is always better. It was out of desperation (and maybe my very large investment in this woman's lifetime-guaranteed services) that I called her back out.
The rest of Saturday and most of today, I've felt just horrible about even trying to use the collar on Bodhi. Honestly, it had been going well, but when we tried to take him out with Lily on another lead, he went nuts trying to stay ahead of her and nearly hurt himself. My corrections just added insult to near-injury.
So the choke chain is going to make a beeline for the trash. The vet gave me other alternatives and the business card for a trainer he trusts. I'm going to try to just look forward from here. The training didn't go on for very long, and he isn't hurt. But I don't want him to come to associate me or our walks (which I love most of the time) with pain or fear. I'm going to try to forgive myself for trusting an "expert" who was using outdated methods. Obviously she doesn't know how I feel about my babies.
Truth is, I was doing pretty well on my own, even if he sometimes nearly jerked my arms from their sockets (wish he could have the same empathy for me I have for him!). I may try the other trainer, or I may just try some of the things the vet suggested. He knows me and our babies well enough to know I would never willingly hurt one of our babies. I was just misguided.
But my gut? My gut knew all along. I should have trusted it.
Peace - D