My husband and I moved to the Sunshine Coast from a shaky Christchurch with our 2 dogs, Ralph who was an old boy and pretty easy as a dog, and Fred ……
Fred is a Border Collie x Lab from a farm, his mum was the working Border Collie and dad was the lab. He is a beautiful boy but has some in-built ‘quirks‘ which have become more apparent as he has got older.
We did all the right things to the best of our knowledge, we went to puppy school, we socialised at the dog park and visited different places. I began to take the easy way out though as he was a headstrong dog on the lead - very focused on where we were going - a very frustrating walk indeed. Fred loves the car so that became the norm - a car ride to the forest or park which was only down the road to make the before work morning routine easier.
After being on the coast for a few months I thought I would find an agility class or dog training for Fred to stimulate him and to help us bond. I remember searching and not really finding anything that was in the right location or that sounded suitable. Then I came across the Canine Classroom website. I remember ringing Dave and organising to come into the free starter session.
By this time Fred was 2 years old, our old boy Ralph was approaching 15 and Fred seemed to be trying to protect Ralph (who had always been the leader) but it did not come naturally to him so it showed as panicky slightly aggressive behaviour, soon becoming habit.
Hearing what was said at the session and discussing my goals - which at the time were for him to walk on the lead without pulling and not to try and bite the vacuum cleaner! I signed up without any hesitation. We started in the Basic class and loved it - I remember Dave saying that the lead and choker should get the dog excited and not associated in their mind as a source of punishment. To this day Fred gets excited when it comes out - knowing something good is to follow.
I really loved the flexibility of the classes - we could go twice a week, to Coolum and Kawana, we could miss a week knowing that it was not just one of a 10 week course so would miss something important. As Fred had spent a lot of time off lead in Parks and at the beach he showed some aggression on the lead if a dog came up in his face. The rules and structure of the Canine Classroom meant I could relax a little (although I wasn’t good at it) knowing that people would approach only with my say so. Dave encouraged us to use the Orange lead which again helped me to relax a little - he would explain that Fred did not initiate aggression but he needed space. As I lived near to Dave he also offered for Fred and I to go on a walk with him and Boss so that he could give me some strategies to deal with Fred when he barked at dogs approaching head on. After a really upsetting situation where Fred off lead began barking at a man in a hat and headphones Dave was a supportive phone call a way, helping me see the full picture and to be able to learn from it.
Fred responded so well to the training and we soon moved through the classes. I appreciated the real life contexts of the training such as food refusal, firework noises, people in hoodies skateboarding around and lawn mowers weaving in and out.
We made it to the advanced class but soon after my husband and I decided that we would move again, to his hometown of Adelaide. I was devastated that we would have to leave the classes and the friends that I had made. It worked out that Fred was able to do his Advance assessment in our last class - I was so nervous I thought there would be no way we would pass - although I knew he could do it all. Despite my stressing he passed!! I was so proud of us both.
Then we moved …
On arrival in Adelaide I started searching for something to replace our classes. First I tried a small class in a nearby park. Their most advanced class was about 4 dogs doing off lead work but there would be dogs running here and there and each week we followed the same routine for half an hour - Fred would barely get a turn as the others took so long to do things! - we lasted about 4 weeks before boredom won. Being told I had to change my hand signals and my lead was wrong had also annoyed me. What did it matter what my hand signals were - as long as Fred did what I wanted. The Canine Classroom stood out here as each week was different and as the class was an hour you achieved a lot.
Then we went to a local obedience school run by volunteers. We also took our new puppy Bob (as unfortunately we had lost Ralph just before the move). I asked them to assess Fred and explained the level we had trained to. They watched him heel for a few steps then stop - Fred stood at my side as he had been trained to do. Without seeing any more they said we had to go in the first class, as Fred should sit when a heel is stopped!!!! I tried to plead my case and say why should he sit if I am happy he stands - they would not budge so we didn’t even do one class. The Canine Class won again as it was flexible - it wasn’t about dogs who could do every bit of ‘obedience’ to the book, it was about flexibility for people to do what was right for them.
We then had a trainer around to help us with a few things, such as Fred becoming super excited and how to work with Fred and Bob together (Fred wasn’t too impressed with the new addition). It was a great 2 sessions and helped us a lot - but we spent as much on those 2 sessions as our lifetime membership to the Canine Classroom, so was definitely a on-off thing.
We have now ended up at a dog obedience club a little further from home - again run by volunteers. They at least assessed Fred and put him in the top class and are more relaxed on their commands and signals - I can use what I have learnt before. Fred and I get something out of the class as I have Dave’s teaching in my head - and that’s what I apply. I giggle inside as Fred sits on the first command and I stand quietly while everyone else babbles away with their commands - there is so much talking and noise!!
Fred is not the dog he could have been had we been able to stay at the Canine Classroom continuing with lifetime maintenance and I really wish I could have put him to ‘boarding school’ with Dave to address some of his ‘quirks’ and help him with his socialisation. I am also gutted I can’t put our puppy Bob through the system, but I do try and apply what I have learnt - I am sure my husband gets fed up with each sentence starting with ‘Dave says …..’
All in all our year at the Canine Classroom was the most valuable thing I have done and I love keeping in touch via the posts on Facebook. I certainly achieved those first two goals as Fred now heels off lead (he has regressed a bit in this) and I can vacuum without him trying to eat the cleaner head (although it was very funny to watch!!). A huge thanks for Dave and the team for training me as much as Fred and helping me to become a more confident dog owner, trying to do the best for my boys J