The trainer firstly observed and passed judgement on a pre-trained dog. A border collie who had been working with the trainers for years and knew the simple exercise inside out.
The second dog was more to my interest. A 7year old male rottweiler. Working with many large breed dogs, especially rottweilers I was interested to see if the seminars 'trainer' had any new advice. I'd observed the dog and his trainer prior to the seminar practical and they did brilliantly at simple exercises. The dog was invited into the hall. the silent 40 people all stared at the clearly nervous rottweiler. The dog showed many signs of insecurity but was ignored. The seminar went silent. The group continued to stare at this dog. The trainer ignored the dog.
Knowing rottweilers, particularly insecure dogs I could see the next part coming. The rottweiler turned to face the crowd, from which it had no escape, and gave out a deep territorial bark. The sort of bark my rotties do if they suspect there is danger but are not certain. The class froze. The dog was allowed to continue. A few people looked away. Most of the 'trainers' seemed scared. The seminars trainer asked the dog to leave and come back in after a break. The same thing happened again when the dog entered. The dog was told to leave the seminar. No further work was done with this dog.
Firstly, that is not training. No issues were addressed at the 'dog aggression' seminar. The dog was set-up to fail from the start. The seminars 'trainer' did not address the situation early enough. The questions from the group were then answered poorly. The 'trainer' was advised to 'Stop training with the dog immediately. The dog is too stressed.' when the rottweiler had shown he was most comfortable and focused when he could turn to his trainer for guidance - which on entering the hall he received none. When asked 'Is the dog aggressive because of its breed?' - the 'trainer' tip-toed around the answer but agreed it was. I've seen rottweilers as guide dogs, P.A.T dogs, agility champions and much more. I have seen Pomeranians sink their teeth into another dog and 'lock' their jaw. I firmly believe it is not the breed, it is the dogs experienced and training that make the dog the way it is. Sadly for rottweilers their size and appearance make them a target for this kind of attitude. If a chihuahua had walked into the seminar and started barking, I am convinced the trainer would have allowed the seminar to continue.
At this point I'm considering leaving. I've attended the seminar to see training. So far I've seen a 3hour long slideshow on basics and a border collie that could run an obedience club of his own. There had been NO training. The seminars 'trainer' then had to dig himself deeper into my 'ridiculous ideas' book. 'This dog needs medication.'.
SSRE - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Enhancer or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). 'SSRE medications are antidepressant drugs that exert a mood elevation on the patient by altering the level of the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin within the brain. Prozac for dogs.
Ok. So we're going to give up training and drug the dog so that it's unable to react? THAT IS NOT TRAINING. THAT IS INADEQUATE AND LAZY when the dog had actually made considerable progress with his owner trough training (the 'trainer' failed to get the full background of the training history and jumped onto the 'drug' wagon). Some of the many possible side effects are: cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), urine retention, dizziness, fatigue, seizures, aggression, constipation, vomiting, diarrhoea and strokes. A common cause of treatment failure is when medication is used as a stand-alone therapy, without behaviour modification. No medication is a replacement for training and behaviour modification. Pets will not change behaviours overnight while on the drugs and regular blood tests are required to check the dog keeps healthy while on the drug (hey rottweiler, if you weren't stressed enough, multiple trips to the vet to be restrained and have a needle forced into you will do the trick!). I have known both dog and cat owners who have used this drug as a last resort for different problems - some with great results. I fail to see why in this case, with what was actually a straight forward case, the 'trainer' decided he would recommend this treatment.
I've worked with many dogs. From tiny to giant. From puppy bites to 'red-zone'. I have a special interest in rottweilers. I've worked with many owners with the same problems with their dog and with consistent training I have never failed a client. I would have enjoyed working with that rottweiler and his owner. The owner was heartbroken to hear 'rehome your dog', 'put him on drugs'. The dog had NEVER in his life been at all aggressive towards people. As usual, the crowd of 40 'trainers' mostly followed like sheep and agreed that drugging the dog was necessary and the dog was too dangerous to work with. There were a handful who had doubts. I spoke to the organisers after the seminar. They were shocked that somebody would question their methods and had NO ANSWERS OR UNDERSTANDING of SSRIs or actual training advice. NOTHING. How can you advise something you have no knowledge of? I wouldn't want my dogs on potentially harmful drugs that have no scientific proof of having ANY affect when I've found natural remedies can have the desired affect without the side affects.
On leaving the seminar I felt saddened. Those 40 'trainers' would go away and tell their clients the same advice and calling themselves 'trainers'. I've only met a handful of GOOD dog trainers and only a special few are GREAT dog trainers. I advise people to research their trainers at length and ask questions before meeting the trainer. I've met clients who have had 'trainers' say 'have one dog put down' or 'teach the dog to jump up, then we'll teach him not to jump on somebody'. I've witnessed 'trainers' try to work with dogs who attempt to 'choke', 'kick' 'touch / punch' or 'scream' at dogs to force them to behave when they claim they use positive methods. I respect REAL trainers. People usually come to me after a handful of 'trainers' prove incompetent and cruel in their methods. My job is to help dogs and owners work through problems happily. I love my job :)