I made an appointment w/a trainer a few weeks ago, and he came out today to meet w/me and the dogs.
Talk about an eye opener and a half.
Apparently we have some issues I wasn't aware of, and I feel so stupid now (to put it mildly)... after Mick passed I had promised myself never to screw up another dog ever again.
The reason for contacting a trainer in the first place was my intention to get Sepp his CGC certificate, and I knew that this would take some serious work to achieve much better obedience on his part. He's pretty much all over the place all the time, and I know that's my fault. My "training" is sporadic and unfocused (at best) right now.
Because of some fairly recent major health issues on my part we spend most of our time at home and in the yard now. I'm not able to leash-walk the dogs for long distances or long periods of time. I also don't drive, so they don't get to experience a lot of the "outside world", other than trips to the vet.
We do spend a lot of time
in the yard, playing and "exercising", but that's not the ideal environment to prepare for getting CGC-certified, and I realized that.
Anyway... the trainer came out... and he was in a wheelchair. That was a little unexpected.
We talked for a few minutes, about dogs in general and Pit Bulls specifically (he owns two himself), and John (the trainer) seems very knowledgable and experienced w/the breed. I was immediately comfortable around him, since his "philosophy" mirrors just about everything PBT stands for when it comes to living w/Pits. He also has pics of his Pit girls in his wallet, and some videos of them doing obedience on his cell phone, so, yeah, I really liked him.
He asked me for a detailed history of each dog.
We talked about Mick and his issues at some length, and how I (mis)handled that
He then asked to meet the dogs on-leash, one at a time. I brought out Faust first (since I thought he is my "problem child", being a little leery of the "unknown" still, and all that)... and Faust was awesome.
A little cautious for about 30 seconds, but once he sniffed the wheelchair and decided it wasn't dangerous, he warmed right up to John. He made great eye contact when John called him by name, obeyed some commands (sit and down), and was a folded-in-half wagging butt every time he was petted.
Faust was very focused and surprisingly calm through the whole process.
John thinks Faust will be very receptive to obedience training and thinks we can accomplish that w/lots of positive re-enforcement. He pegged Faust for being extremely food-motivated right away... and this is very, very true.
So, on to Sepp... I brought him out, and he was his usual "all-over-the-place-crazy-self"... also very distracted by everything beyond the fence - other dogs barking, people going by, etc. Not sure about the wheelchair at all, a little overly excited about meeting John (which I mistook for him wanting to be friendly, of course), some grumbly "talking" (which he does w/me at times also, but I find it kinda cute), no eye contact, no focus on anything or anyone in particular for any length of time... he did sit for a few seconds when John asked me to give the command, but as soon as I praised him for it he was up and all over the place again. John spent considerably less time actively engaging w/Sepp, and I did notice that he never tried to pet him at all. After just observing him for a while (and Sepp acting like a boob, mostly) he then asked me to bring Sepp back in the house so we could discuss a training plan.
I thought it went well, considering.
John thinks that Sepp is somewhat anxious/neurotic but very confident
in himself. This, apparently, could become a huge problem.
John said that Sepp comes across as "Yeah, I'm nervous - but I'm not afraid of you!" He explained it to me like this: If Faust got a serious leash-correction, for example, he would maybe cower or roll over, and he would accept it and learn from it. Faust is a definite people-pleaser.
If Sepp was corrected in the same manner he might very well retaliate and "turn" on the handler/trainer... not necessarly by biting, but it's a very real possibility. Not w/me, because Sepp and I seem very bonded (and, honestly, that never even entered my mind at all in the first place) - but Sepp *could* express himself towards strangers or perceived threats/challenges that way. At the very least he could come across as very intimidating/scary if he ever chooses to do so... and he (Sepp) knows
John said that he didn't pet Sepp because Sepp was being so pushy, that his hackles were slightly raised, and that his "grumbling" was actually meant to intimidate John (and the wheelchair). He assured me that he's not afraid of Sepp at all (and also not afraid of being bitten, since that comes w/the territory when training dogs), but that Sepp needs time to relax around him so they can establish mutual trust and respect.
John thinks that Sepp exhibits all the signs of becoming DA, therefor he would be a very poor canditate for passing his CGC.
Sepps anxiety/crazy behavior stems mostly from being bored/frustrated, caused by lack of exercise and physical/mental stimulation. Sepp needs way more other activities to tire himself out than playing/running around in the yard for a couple of hours each day.
Sepp isn't in the least bit fear aggressive, but he will face a "challenge" head-on and w/confidence. Possibly w/his teeth... at the very least by throwing his weight around (literally) and/or growling.
I was NEVER so dumbfounded in all my life, I swear.
How did I not see all that, and a complete stranger can spell it out to me in no uncertain terms after meeting my dogs for the first time?
For now Johns plan is -
to seriously train both dogs in basic obedience off-leash. This will be done in my yard/around my house on a weekly basis (twice a week, if need be) for 2 hours each time, and I was promised tons of "homework" which I need to do daily.
Sepp needs to wear a prong collar, just to get used to the idea of wearing one. I'm not to use it for corrections/anything else at all at this time. Sepp will need to warm up to John at first - small meet-and-greet sessions until this is accomplished, before any official hands-on training by John takes place.
Faust is good to go as is, since he already walked next to Johns wheelchair w/out any hesitations.
John is going to look into finding some more challenging activities/exercises for Sepp that we can do at home. He reminded me that "a tired dog is a happier dog", and I need to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. NOT AT ALL
what I expected from this free evaluation, but a wake-up call for sure.
When John left I was in tears.
I cannot believe that I so completely misjudged Sepps behavior, and I'm somewhat horrified at myself.
"Good intentions" my ass... mine seem to be totally counter-productive.
On the other hand... I'm hopeful, since I really do like this trainer and I am willing to put in the work to get Sepp under control.
Still... how the f*** did I let this happen again??? <---
(Rhetorical question... no need to answer it.)