I recently read a blog post by a dog trainer named Fernando Camacho called, “How to Get Kicked Out of My Class.” I was immediately intrigued. What kind of hardcore dog trainer kicks students out of class? I had to read more.
He says in the blog, “Every single time I begin a new group obedience class I have to kick at least one person right out the door. I always do this the very second they enter the building and before they have a chance to utter a single word to me.”
Whoa. Really? Way to get your harsh on, Fernando! I wondered why he was doing this. To set an example so that others would behave? This guy has bigger croutons than Cesar Milan. I read on.
“So what’s the big offense you ask? . . . Did they say Pit Bulls are vicious? Nah, for that they would get a lecture but not an eviction. Did they have a wardrobe malfunction? . . . I encourage that. They did one of the single most damaging things to their dog: they carried him in.”
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. I call this, “The Curse of the Puppy Purse.” Indeed, little dogs that are carried everywhere can turn into unholy terriers (or terrors, take your pick). I agree. But to toss a student out of class?
By the end of the blog, Camacho says that he makes the student duo walk out and then walk in again, this time with all six feet on the floor. Whew! I was envisioning a little old lady, sitting outside in the rain, holding a Yorkie to her chest and crying about getting kicked out of obedience school. Then the Yorkie bites someone’s ankle.
Camacho makes a point that dog trainers wish everyone who has a small dog would understand. If you don’t allow your dog to walk, to meet people and other dogs on his own terms, he will not become properly socialized – and then you have a big problem.
There’s an elderly man in my neighborhood that I’ve seen at least once a day for the last ten years cradling his three-pound Chihuahua, shuffling slowly down the street with a cane and talking all the while to the dog as it yaps and snaps at every passerby, canine and human alike. I have dubbed this dog “The Meanest Dog in the Neighborhood,” and that’s saying a lot for a place called Hell’s Kitchen. No one has more chutzpah than this little Chi.
There is little doubt that this dog is well cared for. It always has on a different outfit. It looks to be in great shape, very spoiled, and the bond between the man and the dog is like super glue. But no one else can get near the man or the dog because Super Chi is always on guard. This dog is on the lookout for dangers that don’t necessarily exist. Because he was always carried and coddled, he doesn’t understand that people, other dogs, and the world isn’t necessarily out to get him.
On the flip side, I have seen quite a few dogs – typically little Yorkies – being pulled along by oblivious owners down a crowded New York City street, and it was everything I could do not to accost the owner and tell her to pick up her dog. I’ve seen little dogs being stepped on and frightened by bicycles and passersby. If you have a tiny little dog and you’re walking through Times Square, have the sense to pick him up. What I’m saying is that there is a time to pick up your little dog – when the dangers are real.
When there’s nothing to be fearful of, your little dog should be as self-assured as a well-socialized Great Dane. Allowing a dog to walk by himself, meet people and other dogs, and check out the world on his level will give him the confidence to walk through the world without having to be afraid. Fearful dogs aren’t fun to walk and they can become a nuisance. They can bark incessantly and even bite.
As cute as a puppy in a fashionable bag can be, realize that the window for socialization is very small (before the pup is 20 weeks old), and if you miss it, you lose it forever. After that, socialization is much more difficult – possible, but harder. Though I don’t agree with kicking obedience students out of class on the first day (even to have them walk back in), I will agree that making this point is pretty important. Please, walk your dog, no matter how small he is – especially if you’re going to take Camacho’s class. I wouldn’t mess with that guy.