I have been assisting with our Reactive Rover classes for several years, but recently I had
the opportunity to join the class as a student with my own dog, Ferrous. I love being a student. Not only do I get to spend time with my dogs, which can be in short supply as a trainer, but it gives me a chance to fine tune my techniques and get feedback from my peers.
Even though I had been to the orientation a hundred times, and (hopefully) had all the basic skills being taught, I was eager to take my seat on the first night. I enjoyed talking about my dog and commiserating with the other students. We all had dogs who were angels at home, but acted in ways that scared and embarrassed us outside of the house by barking, lunging and growling at every dog they saw. It felt good being among people who were going through the same thing, and knowing I wasn’t being judged. It felt good to practice the skills being taught as well. No matter how well you think you know something, practicing the basics can never hurt, especially with a good instructor like Scott watching. To my relief, he didn’t point out any glaringly bad habits or sloppy technique that I had developed.
When it came time to bring our dogs the next week, I was just as nervous as everyone else. What if Ferrous lunged every time he saw one of the other dogs? What if he couldn’t stop barking? Worse yet, what if he wouldn’t even eat treats when we were safely behind our own barriers without a dog in sight? I needn’t have worried though. Class was quiet and calm. Scott and Caroline made sure every exercise was set up just right. Immediately I realized something that had never occurred to me in all the times I was on the other side of the barriers instructing students. I was able to relax and just focus on my own dog. Those with reactive dogs know the anxiety that can go along with trying to train or even just get away from another dog out in the “real world.” You never know what is going to happen. Is that other dog going to stay at a good distance, or are the owners going to want to lead them right up to you, even though you are clearly trying to avoid them? There was none of that anxiety once I got in to class. I was able to concentrate on all the clues that tell me how Ferrous is feeling, and what I need to do, rather than worrying about what was going on around me. I could relax knowing Scott and Caroline had that covered.
Although we didn’t have a 100% reaction free class, during the six weeks Ferrous only reacted three times. A fantastic improvement! I also saw improvement in the house and during walks through our neighborhood. For anyone considering taking a Reactive Rover class, I can tell you from a student’s perspective, it is wonderful! You will feel accepted by your classmates and the satisfaction of doing something with your reactive dog that builds positive skills and memories.