Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

The Bad Dog

on October 4, 2011

Six-months ago, I got a new puppy named Stormy. My fifteen-year old cocker spaniel died in March and it wasn’t my intention to get a new dog. But, when I sent a card to the kennel where my cocker had always boarded, the kennel owner wrote back that she knew a breeder whose cocker was having puppies. The cockers were from a good line of agility dogs and most were spoken for as agility dogs, but there were a couple in the liter who were available.

I went to meet the breeder and see the pups at four weeks old. I fell in love with a female black and white cocker pup. But, four weeks later, when I got my e-mail telling me my pup was ready it was not the black and white pup.  After testing the dogs for agility disposition, I was given a black and tan male dog who had “flunked” agility training. That was okay with me, I wasn’t planning to do agility with my dog.

After I’d had the pup a few weeks, a friend recommended a puppy school. He was taking his puppies to the classes and thought it was a good place. I signed my puppy, Stormy, up for classes. We had a great time in the first puppy class. Okay, loose leash walking wasn’t really Stormy’s thing, but he did well with the rest of the classes. We went to puppy play dates on Friday night, we went to other puppy’s homes for puppy play dates, and we worked on our obedience skills.

At the end of the puppy class, I could sign Stormy up for a puppy agility class or the next class in the puppy training class. I chose the puppy agility class. I didn’t feel that Stormy was ready for more obedience yet.  He could barely contain himself sitting for seconds, how would he sit for minutes at a time?

And, off we went to puppy agility class. And the trouble began.

Cockers are known to be good agility dogs, but remember, my cocker flunked his pre-agility test.  When we got to class, there were six dogs. Three large dogs, and two other small, small dogs. A terrier and a fluff dog. The terrier and the fluff dog LOVED agility. They soared through all the tunnels, tires, and jumps the first night. Stormy…well, the tire was okay, sorta.  The walk the plank was fun, and the tunnels—he loved those so much they became hide and seek and by the third week, I had to bring string cheese to lure him out of the tunnels.

And, oh yes, owners run along side their dogs in the agility course.And, the whole thing is outside. It’s cold outside. It’s dark earlier. And it’s raining.

So, by the third week, I was beginning to looking longingly at the nice, warm, inside cozy room where the puppy obediance classes were going on, and wishing we had done that class.

The third week started off bad. We missed the jumps and Stormy crashed into the poles. Something about me not turning the right way. Sorry, I guess all that yoga doesn’t make me coordinated in agility.  Then, Stormy seemed to be really hyper. He dashed through the tunnels and had me scrambling after him. And, to make matters worse, that little terrier kept jumping all over him in the line while we waited our turn.

And then, the moment came. We were supposed to run a good part of the course. Stormy and I started off. We were doing okay. We didn’t miss the jumps. He got through the tire and the tunnels. He was doing well, I dropped the leash and let him run. The other small dogs were doing this by this point, and I figured he’d be fine. At the same time, the trainer started the small, fluffy dog on his run at the beginning of the course. Suddenly, Stormy was running towards the small fluffy dog, and then chaos erupted. I’m not sure who started it, but Stormy was the dog to go down. “Aggressive,”” The trainer said as she grabbed Stormy and put him in passive restraint. The rest of the class got quiet. The small fluffy dog yipped and yipped.

“Is he hurt?” The trainer asked the owner of the fluffy dog. The owner shook his head and the fluffy dog continued to yip.

“Did you take the puppy classes?” The trainer barks at me.

“Yes,” I say. “All of them. He’s never done this before.”

The trainer barks, “Do you practice passive restraint with him at home?”

“Yes,” I say. “We do.” (Passive restraint is just me flipping Stormy up on his back side and placing him between my legs.)

“You”ll have to keep him on his leash at all times. Go last in line, and if he is going to be off leash the other dogs have to leave the arena.”

She hands me the leash.

I take it, and walk past the quiet class with their well behaved dogs to the back of the line.

And then I am fuming. FUMING.

Stormy is not an aggressive dog. We’ve had a great summer at the beach, on hikes, with other dogs, in all the puppy classes and play dates. Stormy is one of the more submissive dogs in the play dates. If he got aggressive something else was going on.

There were treats on the ground of the agility course.  One gal does nothing but feed her dog treats the entire class to keep him quiet. I gave Stormy treats at the end of the tunnel. Maybe he thought the other dog was going to eat his treats and got territorial.

The owner was running with the other dog. Maybe Stormy got scared of the man running next to the other dog.

Or maybe, just maybe, the other dog did something to Stormy and he was provoked.  I saw Stormy go running to the other dog like he wanted to play. Stormy didn’t charge the other dog. He wanted to play.

Still fuming, I took Stormy through a few more agility tricks, and then when it came time to run the final course, I walked to the back of the line, and leaned against the wall. And I waited.

Our turn finally came and I said, “We’re not going.”

Deadly silent in the class. Deadly silent.

“What?” The trainer said in disbelief.

“We’re not going,” I said. “We’re done.”

And it felt good to stand there and say that. Sorry, I’m not jumping through hoops. I don’t work on command, and obviously, neither does my dog.

We have a few seconds of stare off before the trainer says, “Well. I guess it’s good to know your dog.”

“Yes,” I said. “It is.”

And what I know about Stormy is he’s not aggressive.He’s a little black dog who likes to please.  If he got aggressive than something happened to push him to that moment. But punishing Stormy and making him the “bad dog” in the class is not okay either. There were a lot of variables in that situation and none of them were accounted for. None.

And you know what, next Monday, I’m going to bookgroup–not Puppy Agility class.

“Nobody puts Stormy in the corner.”

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One response to “The Bad Dog

  1. Linda Benson says:

    Oh gosh, Mindy. I sympathize with you, and I’m laughing as I read this at the same time. I have a nine-month-old puppy that is a border collie/australian shepherd mix. Read: extremely smart, but Highly Excitable. I’ve been used to nice, calm labradors, so raising this pup has been an experience, to say the least. I’ve thought of taking her to classes, but we are working things out and learning in our own way. Penny is going through a teenage stage at the moment, and I don’t think she could keep her wits about her in a class. I do see improvement, and am enjoying her more and more each day as she grows up. Good for you for taking a stand, and standing up for Stormy. Hey – obviously, she was provoked!

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