My Life with Dogs #19

”Friends: As you read along you will quickly come to realize that I am of the old school in training dogs. Or maybe, if you have been to any training schools in the past five years, reading my method will be ‘new’ to you. I’ll talk about the differences later, but for now, again, welcome! If you have time, reading my former blogs will bring you up to date.
The basis of my training method falls into five categories, or lessons…sit back and enjoy.” John

“Outside of a dog, a book is probably man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

There are parts of the human body that wear out sooner than others. For me it was the left, inguinal hernia…a piece of the anatomy that screams for relief when you are training dogs…especially dogs that could care less about your pain and suffering.

     My hernia came about when I was lifting used railroad cross ties into holes for a horse paddock on our farm. When I felt and heard the internal “snap” I knew my body was telling me I had screwed up.

     At the time, I belonged to a civic group called Ruritan, most members were farmers, and most had endured hernias. Now, if you know anything about farmers, then you know they are the ultimate businessmen. They have to know market conditions for their various crops, they have to be able to budget, they have to be weathermen, accountants and contractors…and generally, they are their own workforce. Point being, they can’t afford to be laid up in a hospital when there’s work to be done on the farm. Which brings me to my next point, they also know about medicine.

     Once my Ruritan friends found out about my hernia there was only one place to go, Shouldice Hospital in Ontario, Canada. Why Shouldice? That’s where a unique technique was developed so that the recurrence factor of the hernia was near .05 percent as opposed to 15 percent in the United States. And farmers could be back on the tractor within 48 hours. A win-win as far as the farmers were concerned. They loved Shouldice, as did my insurance company, but my Mom thought I was nuts.

     I tell you this because my hernia burst forth in the middle of my first set of dog training classes in Hartville. And by the time my second set of classes was scheduled, I had airline tickets to Canada and was scheduled for an operation.
Remember the dog biting preamble I mentioned above…

     On the night before I was to leave for Canada, I held a first-night training class. Lo and behold a lady approached me with a German Shepherd. I made the mistake of not studying the dog before I agreed to hold him while she returned to her car for her purse.

     I took the leash, she turned, I turned my attention from the dog to answer the question of another handler, and her dog bit me on the left cheek of my rear end, opening up a five-inch gash that gushed blood like a stuck pig. And to increase my embarrassment, he also took a five-inch square of my pants with him.

     Talk about attention getters!

     Within a second the dog lunged for me again, but this time I was ready. For the next five minutes I worked that dog on leash to the point we were both sweating like Arabian Knights. When I finished he sat at my side, perfectly still, not willing to bite ever again…at least not me! I will admit, there are some very special training techniques I use for dogs that bite humans…but we all have our secrets…right?

    Remember:  I am responsible for the safety of all dogs and handlers in my classes. When I am aware of a problem dog, I can keep that dog and handler separate from the rest of the class until appropriate training has been completed and I am satisfied that they are ready to join the others.

     An indiscriminate biter, fear biter, aggressive biter, or any other type of biter is a menace to society. In the majority of court cases the person owning the dog that bites is judged as the guilty party.

     Numerous times through the years folks have tried to justify the threat of their dog. It’s different if your wife is being attacked and your dog comes to the rescue. Everyone would support your dog. But, dogs that bite kids, mailmen. meter-readers, other dogs and cats, surprise guests, the extended hand of a vet, or any other person without provocation, as I said, are a menace to society. These dogs should be trained or placed in a home where the owner is totally knowledgeable of the problem. AND, if you choose a training class, then for goodness sake keep your dog in the car or separated from other dogs and people until you have talked with the trainer.

My trip to Canada was painful. Upon arrival I discussed my difficulty with the nursing staff who immediately prepared a Seitz bath to calm my raging sore, which could not be stitched because dog bite wounds need to drain.

     Two days later, finding it uncomfortable to sit or lay, I returned to Hartville with ten-feet of stainless steel wire supporting my hernia, and resolve to err on the side of caution the next time a handler asked me to hold a dog while they get their purse. I’ve decided it isn’t worth the $30 training fee.

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