When you hire a professional (someone who claims to be a professional in his/her field) you have certain expectations. At least I do – or rather, I did.
In our search to help Liezel with her fear and help ourselves be able to handle Liezel, we sought advice from many dog training professionals. One such pro came highly recommended by our breeder.
I called “Brian” and explained what was going on – the barking and lunging, general anxiousness, hyper-vigilance, etc. After a quick discussion he said he would fax the required documentation for me to complete. The forms contained the usual questions “has your dog ever bitten anyone,” “how is your dog around children / men / women,” “describe your dog’s behavior in these circumstances,” “what breed of dog do you have,” “why did you choose this breed”… on and on for five pages. Brian asked that I provide as much information as possible, so I wrote 15 pages of detail and faxed it back (yes, faxed, he did not have email).
Once he received and reviewed my encyclopedia of Liezel we made an appointment. He was VERY specific about a lot of things: no perfume or anything scented, do not get out of the car until he comes out to get us, park on the left facing the fence, and a lot of other things I don’t remember. Getting directions to his place was cumbersome, I should have just Googled it, but he insisted on telling me. I remember asking him where he was in relation to an intersection of highway and expressway. Because I did not know the exit number he could not say (geez, I knew the road names!)
Anyway, I was very nervous leading up to the appointment and when we did arrive at his place Liezel fed off of my nervous energy. When we got out of the car (at his direction) he told me to let Liezel be Liezel and for me to give no correction. He had us move closer and closer as she barked and lunged at him. This was apparently enough for him to make a complete and thorough evaluation of my dog.
After he gave Liezel some treats (which she stopped barking for and happily took) we made our way into his training facility and sat down for a two-hour, $195, discussion. Here are the key points:
- He gave Liezel a raw hide bone which I questioned as probably unsafe but he said was fine once in a while
- Our breeder “may be a good breeder, but she is no trainer” and her advice should be discarded
- The way Liezel barked, with a rounded “O” mouth, indicated she was barking out of fear
- My written answer to “Why did you choose this breed” was an honest explanation that included my general fear of being alone and the security a dog would provide. Let’s be honest, a Rottweiler is going to make me feel safer than say, a Beagle or Poodle. I also explained that in many instances the dog would prevent possible predators from approaching me. Brian had the audacity to say, “You need to think about whether or not her behavior bothers you or if you like it. I am inclined to say you like her acting this way.”
- His suggestion and summary to the entire, exhausting meeting was “This dog should never be taken out of the house.”
- His suggestion that Liezel should be crated any time anyone came over.
- His recommendation of himself if we ever became involved in a dog bite lawsuit – he had lots of experience testifying with his expert opinions.
I walked away with a few ridiculous sketches from his attempts to explain dog evolution, illegible notes he took on his own speech, blood on my new sweatshirt from my stress induced nose-bleed, and pure anger, frustration, and hate.
I hated that I listened to the breeder and met with Brian, that I just spent $195 for nothing, that I just let Liezel eat a raw hide even though I knew better, that he insinuated that I liked her behavior, that my new shirt was ruined (blood never comes out), and that I was no closer to helping my pup.
“This dog should never be taken out of the house,” and “She should always be crated whenever anyone comes to the house,” rattled me for months. So much so, that everyday, to and home from work, when I got to the intersection I asked him about (where highway meets expressway), I heard him saying it, “This dog should never be taken out of the house.”
Two or so years later the thought still occasionally pops into my mind and I am filled with anger. I think about the progress Liezel has made and it makes me wonder what kind of “professional” chalks it up to a lost cause? Especially considering that he described her bark as “fear” and not “aggression.” Imagine if we had listened to him – if our quest for the right trainer ended with Brian – Liezel’s short time on Earth would have been miserable not to mention her fear would have increased with lack of any human interaction. I have a special name reserved for Brian that I will not use here as to not offend.
Having dogs (Zelda and Liezel) has taught me many things; one of which is to listen to my gut. When something doesn’t feel right, look for something else. Hiring a professional is not necessarily hiring the right person. Brian didn’t feel right from the beginning, but in my state of anxiety riddled despair I forced the meeting with him and it turned out pretty badly.
Oh and one more thing – I called the breeder after the meeting with Brian. She said that I am the third person she recommended him to that had a bad experience [insert my “wait, what?!” expression] and she would recommend him no more. She also told me to disregard everything he told me and not give it another thought. It took a long time and a lot of training, but I have disregarded him. Not giving it another thought is something I’m working on.