Friday, October 30, 2009

Zippy's training adventure

When you meet Zippy for the first time it is hard to realize just how brilliant he is. He has many skills. This is a highly trained dog. He knows all of the basics; sit, stay, heel, stand, down, down stay......etc.
He has also trained me to retrieve. Enough on that. This story begins after Zippy learned all of his basic obedience. This story is about how I had to seek advice on Zippy's aggression issues with Gus. Previously I mentioned that Zippy and Gus do not get along and that they have had a fight or two that resulted in injury to both. Well I searched for a dog trainer that is also a behaviorist to help me in my quest for peace. I found a wonderful trainer in my area and really had a positive outlook on our situation.

I signed up for a nine week session. These sessions were one on one, just us and the trainer at his very nice facility. A beautiful indoor training room with all sorts of awards on the wall and magazines featuring this very experienced trainer and a wonderful agility course that I hoped one day that Zippy could learn to take on. I went in with high high hopes. The first day the trainer asked me all sorts of questions about Zippy and I showed him all of the things that Zippy could do. He asked me what I wanted to accomplish and I told him all about the aggression issues. This wonderful man looked at me and very seriously said "You do know that you own a Bull Terrier." That comment knocked me over. Of course I had thought about that... (A little background info...Zippy is my second BT and I have also had two other Bulldogs). Then he went on to say "You know they are a fighting breed." Then he went on to tell me about socialization (which we did) and other things to consider when owning bull breeds. I was still sitting there stunned. I guess I was stunned because I of course knew Zippy was a bull breed, but I was beginning to realize that maybe Zippy was going to have to live a solitary life. This was not good. I was discouraged. The trainer asked if Zippy had any strange behaviors. I said yes he hates ceiling fans. If you turn one on he flips out.
Well....needless to say, I went home that day thinking about doom and gloom. I did however decide that I would put my best foot forward and continue on with the training. I at least would have a WELL trained dog and to me that was the most important thing with a dog aggressive animal. I would work it all out and just keep Zippy and Gus separated. On the eighth training session I was going to talk to my trainer about continuing on the agility course. I was very excited and Zippy was advancing and doing a great job. He was even able to work side by side with my trainer's small male Jack Russell Terrier. I was very proud of him. Well.....I get to the training facility and Zippy actually greeted and played with a little mop head looking dog on the way in. Great! We walk into the training room (on leash of course).......and ..............the CEILING FAN was on!!!!!!!!!!!! OH NO!!!!!!! Zippy lunges forward and pulls the lead from my hand and goes wacko. In the process jumping onto the table where all of the beautiful magazines were featuring my trainer. Needless to say Zippy tore one of the magazines to shreds with his paws. My trainer's eyes got huge and he quickly turned off the fan. This all happened within a 30 second time period. I apologized over and over and told my trainer that I would replace his magazine. He then just looked at me with his shoulders down and said "That magazine can not be replaced, it is from the 80's." Man I felt bad. I just continued to apologize and somehow made it through my training session. The last week of training rolled around and I asked my trainer if he thought that we should continue because I wanted to see if Zippy could run the agility course. He said "No." Just NO. At this point I figured that Zippy would need a new career.

I had taken Zippy in for a session with a photographer that sells photos to magazines and calendar companies. About a week after the ceiling fan incident, the photographer called me and said "are you sitting down? Zippy is on the cover of Dog World Magazine!" He was also featured on a full page in the center of the magazine. I was so proud. I even sent my trainer an e-mail to let him know.
As a side note I would also like to say that Zippy and Gus still do not get along, but they can safely pass each other without aggressing. This has taken MUCH work and it has all been done using positive training methods. I do not know where I would be without my Yahoo training group PositivelyBTs and Terri. Thanks guys! Also Jane Killion's wonderful book When Pigs Fly!
Training Success With Impossible Dogs.

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