A family with a beautiful, young German Shepherd sat at the picnic table beside us. “Bah!” “Bah!”
I asked Mike, “Is that the same German Shepherd Honey was playing with at the dog park this morning?” “Bah!”
Mike: “I don’t know. Does the guy have a French accent?” “Bah!” “Bah!”
Pam: “I can’t tell. Maybe.” “Bah!”
The mom and two daughters walked to the swimming area leaving Dad to handle the barking hurricane that whirled at the end of the leash.
Watching out of the corner of my eye, I continued to hear, “Bah! Bah!” and saw the Dad jerking up on the leash. He also yelled “Sit! Sit! Sit” which the dog would do for about a second before hopping up to bark at the next sight that caught her eye.
Pam the Evangelist
Honey wasn’t fazed by the display so after an internal debate, I picked up my clicker, filled my pocket with freeze-dried liver and went over to meet Dad and Shepherd. He didn’t have a French accent and the dog had not played with Honey earlier in the day. But we had a nice chat for about fifteen minutes in which I learned the following:
- Rosie (the Shepherd) was six months old.
- Their last dog, also a German Shepherd, had recently passed away at fourteen years old.
- The Dad was familiar with clicker training because they had hired a trainer who used it. They didn’t go back to the trainer because he charged $200 per training session.
- Instead, they found a franchise training program that was much cheaper. I don’t want to drive any business to the alliterative training business–let’s just call them Arf Arresters.
Messages from the Apocrypha
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Dad was very impressed with the Arf Arresters trainer who was able to do amazing things with Rosie right from the start. He told me how they taught Rosie to listen to no one but her family by having the Arf Arrester trainer call Rosie to him while the Dad threw water balloons at her and shouted to show that it’s not good to go to a stranger who is calling her. Dad was really proud that pretty soon she wouldn’t go anywhere near the trainer when he called her. (I resisted asking Dad if Rosie would go anywhere near him if he called her after having water balloons thrown at her.)
Oh, and the random shouts of “Bah!” that we had been hearing? That’s the Arf Arresters method of getting a dog’s attention. Sort of like that other guy’s–what’s his name? Kaiser Florence?–trademark “Sschhhttt” sound.
Sharing the Good News
I wanted to tell the Dad he was really missing out. That he’d never have a really close relationship with Rosie as long as he acted like a crazy person around his dog. But I wasn’t sure I could do it in a way that would sink in.
Instead, I clicked and treated Rosie while she sat, and stayed, and lay down.
I complimented Rosie to the Dad. I talked about how smart she was. And how it wouldn’t take much for her to become a perfect dog. I told the Dad it was obvious Rosie loved him and was glad to be outside with all the exciting things to bark at. I encouraged him to try clicker training on his own. And I offered to watch her for a moment while the Dad went to get Rosie’s tug toy out of the car.
I don’t know if I did anything good or not. I know that Rosie got a few liver treats. And that for at least twenty minutes, no one shouted “Bah!” at her or jerked her choker collar.
I hope that the Dad loves Rosie enough to learn how to communicate with her better. And who knows. Maybe someday he’ll learn to hear messages from dog.
How do you respond when you see people using outdated or inhumane training methods? Do you try to be as blunt as possible or do you try to be persuasive?