Dear Old Trainer: Thanks so much for the advice on evaluating obedience classes. I took my Poodle, Jake, to a class where the trainer said he was "AKC certified." He was a disaster. Not one dog in the class made any progress, but I would have stayed if I hadn't read your column. How do people like that wind up running classes?
Ladd, San Rafael
A: Beware any class with "AKC" attached. The American Kennel Club, the marketing arm of those out to make a quick buck from dogs, runs the dog show business. That world has no relation to reality and the AKC produces trainers with zero understanding of how to train a dog.
Hector "Macho" Camacho, the legendary and colorful champion boxer who died last week told the story of how, over the years, he wrecked a Porsche, a Corvette, a Maserati, and a Ferrari.
"As long as I have a license, I'll keep crashing cars," he told reporters. "That's how you learn to be a good driver."
That's how the AKC seems to operate -- keep putting on classes that are a disaster until you learn how to do it. Never put your dog at risk in one of these classes without evaluating every aspect, including the competence of the trainer. If you did not see my column on how to do so, drop me an e-mail and I will get it out to you.
Dear Old Trainer: My year old King Charles Spaniel, Charley, has a quirk. Sometimes he goes trotting off to investigate something and when I call him, he acts like he can't hear me. After he checks out whatever it is, he comes back and is well behaved again. What is going on and what do I do about it?
A: Charley, like every young male, concentrates so hard on his own interests he is oblivious to anything else. You have to break the habit. You do it by interrupting his concentration the instant it occurs, every time it occurs.
Work every day on the sit-stay-come series of commands. Put a leash on him and make him look at you during the training. If his concentration drifts say, "Charley, look at me," and use your hand to turn his head back to you if you need to.
Add a new command, the "hold" command. Walk him on the leash, keeping him within six feet. Say "hold," and pull the leash to force him to stop. Pet him and praise him when he does. Repeat the exercise every 10 feet for six repetitions, then continue your walk. Repeat the exercise every day until he learns it, then do it without the leash until he obeys every time.
Every time he starts to wander use the command. If he does not respond, put the leash on him and train him until he obeys the instant you say "hold." Pet him and praise him when he does and you will soon have control.
Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org