Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Dog is a TDI Drop-Out

Remember me talking about Axle doing therapy dog training? Yeah...not anymore. I was super excited about it. Inspired by Sarge Wolf-Stringer, BAD RAP, and The Unexpected Pit Bull, it seemed a natural course to enroll Axle in therapy dog training. His sweet disposition and gentleness about little children was a good sign, right? Wrong. First day of training, he answered a challenge (by growling) a female Rottweiler tossed at him from across the room and instantly became the "dunce" of the class. She was seriously staring him down, and I had to break the eye contact with a piece of paper. Of course, the rottie wasn't corrected...she wasn't the one that growled, so that makes her totally innocent, right? Wrong. Well behaved dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other and should not openly stare directly at another dog as it translates into a challenge. The rottie had passed CGC, so I don't know why her handler didn't recognize the behavior. Axle growled before I could break their eye contact...and BOOM! he's the bad kid.

The trainer talked about how awfully leash-trained he was...totally explaining why I have zero problems when we walk AND he stays by my side off-leash. Yeah, I get it now. *eye roll* She told us we could only use a buckle collar for the test and therapy visits, so better get used to it. (I had been using a no-pull harness.) She used him as an example of what not to do on leash, etc. Then she broke out the martingale collars...which she called modified choke collars. She said the chain that links them makes a noise that is the correction. Um...ok...so why are some made from fabric? And why do they also refer to them as Greyhound collars? Oh wait, I know this one! It's because they were first created for sighthounds due to their tendency to back out of collars. When in use, the martingale hangs loosely around the neck until pressure is placed on the collar and leash. The loop tightens so that the collar is only as big around as the dog's neck and can't come back over it's head. You can get adjustables or have one custom made (I have both).

I've helped a few people and given training tips, but I'm up front about my dogs. We know the ropes, the fundamentals of what needs to be done, but it usually all goes out the window when we are somewhere new with new faces, like a pet store or a dog park.

Back to the drop-out part...Axle had his yearly exam Friday. He was okay until we had to get his temperature and fecal sample. He tucked tail and tried to scoot away, but I held him firm. They spent a lot of time trying to find his microchip, and the scanner startled him. When the vet came in, he had relaxed a little, but with her probing around, he got scared again. When she came in with the stethoscope, he decided he had had enough. He could fly (fight or flight reaction to fear), so he decided fight was better. He growled. I asked for a muzzle just in case, and on it went. He growled throughout the rest of the procedure, but his eyes were as big as saucers and looked worried. His tailed was tucked so high, you'd think he didn't have one. Yeah, he was afraid. The reaction to the medical equipment, thought it was because it was being used on him, wasn't promising. He's also terrified of empty plastic bags. Yes. Empty, plastic bags. Terrified. Why? I have absolutely NO idea. What if we were in a hospice setting and someone changed the trash bag? He'd run away! That wouldn't make someone feel better!

A lot of hospice patients are on oxygen, and I have a feeling he wouldn't react well to that, either. Would he be great for reading to in a library? Probably. Would he be great in a medical setting? Definitely not. I called the director of the program, and Axle officially became a drop-out. She was very understanding, and left the door open for us to come back any time, but I don't think we will.

I really admire the people that do get their dogs certified as therapy dogs. Do I think any less of Axle because he's not one of those dogs? No way! Every dog is made for something different, and that's not his purpose, at least not now. He may get a little older (he's only a year) and be the best you've ever met, but, for  now, he's just my baby, my protector, and my snuggle buddy. I think he really likes that job. :)

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