-Trainer's Best Friend: The Clicker -Dog training can be unpredictable, especially when the dog(s) you are working with are brand new to you. The first day of class for me is really all about reading body language, watching for signs of aggression or fear amongst the dogs, and really summing up and taking a mental picture of the work I have cut out for me over the next 5 weeks of class. Of course, my students only see a trainer droning on about the building blocks and fundamentals of positive reinforcement while internally, I am making check lists about who I will allow to interact with others and who I think would be a well behaved dog to use for my demonstrations.
Now maybe my judgement was lacking, but I decided to take on a 90+ pound Mastiff "puppy" to demonstrate to the class the "sit" behavior. Sweet natured as he was, he was not neutered which in turn led him (amongst other behavioral issues) to start mounting me in the middle of the class. Despite the fact I outweigh the dog, he definitely had more muscle mass then I do and I quickly found myself body blocking and turning away from him to no avail. While I normally would have tried to physically restrain the dog, I knew I was out powered by the beast. I panicked for a moment and thought about giving up. My fear of being completely over powered and embarrassed as a trainer made me want to trade him out for another dog. This thought process was only encouraged by his parents embarrassment as they asked for him to be returned to them.
It took a moment for me to regain my composure and I began walking my feet up his leash in efforts to keep him from jumping on me. I explained to the class my technique and as I talked, he slowly found himself out maneuvered and laid down. Once he was in the down position, I knew I had the "little" bastard. I immediately rewarded him for his good behavior, and got right back to working on "sit". Magically, he sat the first time I asked him. And the second and the third as well. His parents looked on in shock as I trained their dog.
Walking him back to his parents I calmly explained, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, "You just have to stick with it and follow through with what it is you want your dog to do". As the students looked on in what I hope was amazement, they quickly turned to their own dogs and began their practice. Phew! One more dog and fear tackled!